12 October 2011

“Everyone's a F***ing Prostitute,” but the US Electric isn't quite as much fun as one.

     The US Electric keeps itself from coming out of the underground with its fifth album, 'Elevation'. The US Electric is a band consisting of two people, Colby Parson's and Susan Morse, who are also known by their stage names Asha Blue and Bonn Durand. The group has released 4 other albums, 'Recovery', 'Alarm', 'Threshold', and 'Program' which was an EP. The US Electric is virtually unknown, with the only information to be found about them on their own website that is bare to say the least. “Electronic and psychedelic,” the band proclaims on their website regarding their genre choice.
     The US Electric has the sound of a more electronic Eiffel 65. More like an electronic band with hints of Eiffel 65 in it. The best description of this music is something that you might hear in a high end boutique. You walk in and the place is selling overpriced stuff with lots of cold steel and futuristic design about the place. This album has a lot of simple, loud, bass beats, low vocals (with vocal processors), and at times, a hint of melodic under beats.
     As soon as you start listening to this album, you're struck with the protruding bass lines. The bass takes over the songs with a hypnotic structure that draws you in and focuses you on that. Techno/electronic hits are largely based on bass lines, which is good for this band. Along with the bass comes a futuristic sound and feel to the Music. The band tries to transport you off to a far off planet that has technology light years ahead of our own.
      Unfortunately, that planet's musical taste is differing from our own. Take for instance the bass lines we just talked about. While hypnotic, they are also overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact, it's hard to focus on anything else. The bass is simple, and with the general lack of melody and vocals, all you're listening to is this really boring beat. The only thing I would recommend this beat for would be the marching of robots. If you picture a legion of robots marching, anyone of the songs on 'Elevation' fits it almost perfectly.
The reason their beats are boring is because, unlike other electronic music, there is no structure, it's not going anywhere. Normally there are back beats, drops, rhythm, or sections with anything different. The music in this album is just so fundamentally simple that it seems like the downloaded some software off the internet and screwed around with it until they got frustrated and said, “good enough.”

      The two biggest flaws with this entire album is that there is no discernible rhythm, and the vocals are too low. With rhythm, the the only times you can hear rhythm, it's not even really rhythm, it's more like a solo. The rhythm doesn't repeat, or stay similar, it just goes off on different tangents that you can't follow. The vocals are pretty much indiscernible in the songs that actually have them. If you can hear them, they make absolutely no sense. Take for instance, the song Traum Muster, it's just someone playing the same beat repeatedly on a bongo type instrument with creepy music floating around, and a lady talking about one of her weird dreams. Literally just talking. The song gets over and you're like, “That's it?” The whole song sounds like an intro to a song, and you keep waiting for the beat to drop. But it never does. THE BEAT NEVER COMES!!! in all but a few songs, the vocals are just drowned out by the beat.
      All and all, this band, this album, was a waste of time. The reason The US Electric is self produced is because you'd have to be slightly deft to sign them. This is really harsh, but it's because I’m pretty sure listening to this album for so long is starting to drive me insane. The best music I’ve heard from this band is not on this album. I'm sure that if you're one of their hardcore underground following, you think I’m crazy. But, the reason their following is underground is because all the people above ground think this music isn't good. Like I said earlier, if you own a high end boutique and you need some background music then this may be your answer, if you aren't however, I suggest spending your valuable time searching for music elsewhere.

Best song: Asha Blue
Worst song: Tie between, Traum Muster and LMFAO
Ranking: 2 out of 10
Meaning: “I've heard worse, but I'll never listen to this again.”

18 April 2011

TV on the Radio, 9 Types of Light (2011): Album Review

TV on the Radio has consistently cranked out well-reviewed albums packed with catchy, socially conscious songs that have established the quintet as one of the most potent

art-rock bands of the last decade. Yet despite SNL appearances, incredible melodies, and a member that resembles a perpetually stoned teddy bear, the band has failed to join the ranks of other contemporary indie giants like Arcade Fire. 9 Types of Light, TVOTR’s most recent record, is the latest in a string of excellent albums that will be adored by many, but fail to thrust the band into headlining status.

Like their previous work, 9 Types of Light is full of intricately layered tracks that incorporate funk, horns, hand-claps, industrial bangs, angular guitars, triple layered vocals, driving drums, and plenty other crafty sound effects that offer the band an incredibly expansive soundscape. On this album, producer/ guitarist/ token white member Dave Sitek effectively incorporates these sounds into songs that are less dense, but just as engaging as anything else the band has released. By allowing the tracks to breath, the songs are more patient and less jittery. That isn’t to say this album is boring however, just smoother. This new approach reflects the band’s move from the densely packed Brooklyn to the sprawled-out Los Angeles, where the album was recorded. When compared to previous albums, the more subdued tracks comprising 9 Types of Lights are essentially the same as other TVOTR songs, but without the claustrophobic static. I found myself nodding with the majority of the album and the songs are generally more dance-friendly because of the omission of certain production eccentricities. But the new production approach isn’t the only change from the band’s last album. The lyrics are much more straightforward and the love songs are more traditional. Sexy too.

The cynicism that defined earlier TVOTR love ballads is absent; in its place is a healthy serving of sincere, plainspoken romanticism. The track “You” has the line, “You're the only one I ever loved.” “Will Do” has Adibempe crooning, “I'd love to collapse with you/ And ease you against this song” (D’awwwwwwww). Other album highlights include the up-tempo “Repetition,” a song that charges throughout and eventually crescendos with a cyclic chorus. “Caffeinated Consciousness” is an enjoyable track that includes arena-tuned guitars and lyrics like “Gone optimistic/ We're gonna survive.” In fact, this album is decidedly more positive than previous offerings, and marks the band’s most accessible work to date. Album opener “Second Song” aptly conveys this spirit and is another standout track. Overall, this album is a completely new TV on the Radio record, both in terms of sound and content; yet it is undeniably an album made by the same guys that put out Dear Science, Return to Cookie Mountain, and Desperate Youths, Bloodthirsty Babes. I always enjoy seeing bands shift and grow, and it appears that TVOTR is in a healthy period of change; one that sees the band maintaining their core elements, while shifting themes and adding a new layer of accessibility through their lyrics and sonic clarity. Nearly every track is solid, and I was rarely bored – something I can’t say for Dear Science. Definitely check this out if you are a fan of the band, or good music in general.

RIP Gerard Smith

TV On The Radio's bassist, Gerard Smith, passed away on April 20th, 2011 after battling lung cancer. He was 36 years old. The band announced his passing on their website and added, "We will miss him terribly."

04 April 2011

Travis Barker, Give The Drummer Some (2011): Album Review

I’ve never liked Blink-182, The Aquabats, or The Transplants. But I’ve always thought Travis Barker was a very cool drummer. So while I’ve never really been into the bands he’s backed, I have always enjoyed his drumming and can understand why he would want to make a solo album displaying his talents. Unfortunately, his recent drum-infused rap remixes were wearing thin by time he decided to crank out Give The Drummer Some, an album made up entirely of percussion heavy rap tracks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, and the CD highlights some of the best elements from the Rap-Rock genre.

For those of you that thought Rap-Rock met the same fate as backward fitted caps, Dungaroos, and good Tony Hawk games, you were wrong. Because like a mighty Phoenix ascending from a smoldering plane crash, Travis Barker is here to remind us why the genre was awesome (and also a little about why it isn’t).

Despite Jada Pinkett Smith’s efforts, kids are still interested in music that dates back to a time when Steven Tyler was kicking holes through Run Dmc’s walls. And while Barker’s album is specifically drum-focused, it is is a classic example of that genre. Unfortunately, most tracks sound like drum-infused remixes, and not bona fide songs. For every song that is clearly built around Travis’s presence, there are five more where his drumming sounds like an unnecessary layer atop a fully developed track. The many guest rappers featured on the album probably realized this and drop occasional shout-outs as reminders to the fact that the album is centered around a drummer. In fact, both Rick Ross and Lil’ Wayne lazily drop the line “Travis on the drums,” in the same song. Without such reference lines it’s easy to hear the album as a compilation of sessions of Travis playing his drums while listening to a mix of songs his friend sent him.

The lack of vocal coordination highlights the absence of focus and purpose of the album. Many lyrics are lazy and seem more like 1st-draft verses that didn’t make the cut for other work. This is especially true for artists that are already established and currently hot. Other rappers, like Twista, Raekwon, Bun B, and E-40(!) are clearly trying harder, and their verses are generally much better than their track mates. The same cannot be said for Cypress Hill, who close out the album with a terribly boring song full of cliche rhymes and verses that only highlight their age and irrelevance.

With that said, the album does have its strong points. Songs that incorporate rhyme schemes built around Travis’s drumming and work within the established parameters of the Rap-Rock genre are generally the best. “Carry It,” which features 90’s all-stars RZA, Raekwon, and Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) is one such song. The Tech N9ne and Bun B featured track, “Raw ****,” is another. The other top songs are ironically the same one’s were Travis’s drumming is less at the forefront. “Knockin” is one such example. The speed rap showcase track featuring Busta Ryhmes, Twista, Yelawolf, and Lil John, “Let’s Go,” is another. Travis’s drumming is undoubtedly impressive throughout the entire album, and its nice to hear him incorporate all the sounds available on his expansive drum set. Unfortunately, without a real sense of collaboration between drummer-producer-rapper, many tracks fail to highlight the talents of those involved. In the end however, I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would. If you move beyond some of the cheesiness and accept the CD as a collection of tracks, and not a comprehensive album, Give The Drummer Some is actually a lot of fun.

31 March 2011

Rise Against, Endgame (2011): Album Review

This is a band I admittedly don’t care about. The last time I listened to the majority of an Against Me! - I’m sorry - Rise Against album was in the backseat of my friend’s Jetta; and I couldn’t help but notice the irony of two middle-class suburban kids decked out in foreign made clothes semi-listening to some angry, progressive rock music. I think that experience aptly sums up the average listener: they like the music, but are generally oblivious to the message beyond some vague sense of “injustice sucks dude!” I mean, the kids who the lyrics actually speak to are generally way beyond listening to anything so ‘mainstream,’ and I’ve found that there is a huge disconnect between what the audience for the band should be, and what it actually is. With that said, I kind of dug this album. The tracks are fairly polished, which will undoubtedly be a drawback for many fans, but I think it adds some accessibility and general pop-awareness that was previously missing. This album reminds me in many ways of Against Me!’s breakthrough album, New Wave, the album that thrust the band into the mainstream and saw the group embrace more pop elements into their soundscape. And while many longtime fans hated Against Me! for partially abandoning their punk roots, many listeners (me being one of them) thoroughly enjoyed the new sound and direction. Same thing here. Songs about global politics, injustice, and the general shittiness associated with modern society are all intact, but so is a more conscious attempt to arrange songs in new and exciting ways. This results in discernible distinctions between tracks (which is more than I can say for most new Indie releases, I’m looking at you Best Coast), although the second half finds the band falling back into the same routine.

This album definitely draws from the zeitgeist of America being a falling super-power and many songs explicitly deal with the end of the American empire. In fact, “Survivor Guilt” begins with a brief exchange about the failing of the U.S. and would probably best serve as an introduction to the album. Endgame begins to wear thin around this point however; and while the songs themselves are still individually unique within the world of their established sound, it becomes difficult to sit through songs like “Broken Mirrors” and “Wait for Me” simply because of their repetition. Also, the signature combination of earnestness and sincerity gets pretty old. I wish the band would, at least for a few songs, sing about something different. At multiple times I felt like I would be much more into this CD if there was just one song that was totally removed from any of the previous ones. Mainly though, the music rocks. And I say that seriously. I find that a lot of ‘rock’ music lacks the ability to actually get my heart rate up or include guitar riffs/solos that I remember beyond the first listen. That isn’t the case here; the music is fast-paced, fairly creative, and compliments Tim McIlrath’s unique voice. Oddly enough, and this is something I’ve found with all Rise Against songs, the choruses are very sing-along friendly. I can’t help but imagine this band playing huge arenas because of their inviting harmonies, and I hope this album moves the band closer to that.

In the end, I actually found myself partaking in what bothered me so much about every Rise Against fan I’ve met. I was pumping my fist along with the music and focused my energy towards some vague feeling of angst and wrongdoing, pretty much ignoring the majority the song’s lyrics. But I guess that’s their thing. This band is so good at getting you amped up, that only upon listening to the album a second time do the deeper song meanings come to the surface because you aren’t so distracted by the band’s energy. This is a good thing, and I retract my previous judgments about fans of this band. Although this sound still isn’t my cup-of-tea, it has enough rock, and now pop, sensibilities for most to enjoy. And while the album lulls right after the midway point, it ends on a high note. As much as the band probably intended for this album to be consumed as one piece, I would recommend downloading the following and not worrying about skipping the rest: “Architects,” “Help Is On the Way,” “Make it Stop,” “Midnight Hands,” and the 90’s bass totin’ “Endgame.”

Adele's 21 works best for Crying 16-year-olds.

 When non-music enthusiasts hear the name Adele they usually exclaim, “Oh I love her!” Then you ask them what their favorite song was by her and they all say 'Chasing Pavements'. Granted, this song is very good, and very catchy. Considering that was the song that brought her into the collective of America's mind, most people should know her for this song. But will Adele Adkins from little ol' North London be able to move on from this hit and not be a one hit wonder?

Well in her new album, “21”, Adele already has hits like her song, 'Rolling in the Deep' climbing up the Billboard charts. There are good and bad points to this album though and it's about half and half so we'll start with the bad.

Like in her last album, Adele has some songs that keep a simple background mix with boring riffs and beats. It's almost like you could erase the background music from the song all together and you wouldn't tell much of a difference. In some of the songs, all you can pay attention to is the background and you can't even really listen to the lyrics. This really washes the lyrics away and makes them forgettable to say the least. In a couple songs, it's like Adele heard from her producer that she has to hold back her voice, and almost chain it up. Compared to the last album, she used to be all over the place with her vocals. Up, down and all around the scale she went without holding notes very long, sort of like Christina Aguilera. This album doesn't have that though, which comes with a mature feeling that the album has. But holding back her vocals was not a good move and when she actually lets them go, that's when the album soars.

This album does have a more mature feeling to it. She definitely gives it an older, more distinguished feeling that has just the right hint of jazziness to it. At times her voice is reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and blows you away as it floats through the notes. When you get caught up in one of the songs, it won't let you go, and you won't be able to just stop listening. She really tries to spice up the background music. While sometimes it doesn't work out right, she is doing what she needs to to grow as an artist, and it's good to see she's going somewhere. She also uses different background instruments that make it more creative, even giving one song a sort of country twang. Most of all, when Adele sits at the piano and sings out, s*** starts going down in a good way. That is probably the best part about this album.

This is a sad album. Adele just got her heart broken and you can really tell it here. The mature feel really mixes with the heartbreak well so if you're looking for some songs to cry your eyes out to, then look no further.

If you liked the last album, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to like this one. Adele changes a lot in this album and it's a totally different animal than the last one.
Finally, the best songs on this album are: 'I'll Be Waiting', 'One and Only', 'Rolling in the Deep', and 'Take it all'. I rate it overall a 6 out of 10, but it has a couple of 10's on it though. Don't buy the whole album, but definitely pick up some of the songs on it.