In the spirit of Halloween, I am resurrecting my music blog. A lot of shit has gone down and changed in the 2 years since my last post. More recently, I found myself in a musical dead zone. I wasn’t jamming anything. No headphones in at work, no music blaring in my car, no white noise while at home or out on the town. I don’t really know what happened, I just lost the desire to listen constantly. Between personal strife, financial issues, workplace drama and the general fuckery that is existence, I kind of lost my way. But, one by one, things lined up and I started to find…omg…happiness? Contentment? Acceptance of existential dread that turned into a general acceptance of just simply existing and enjoying what I could when I could. It was pretty nice. AND THEN, and then fam, the shit hit the fan. I have been a wrecked ship of nerves and anxiety, washed ashore on some desolate island of seemingly self-induced mental bullshit and awkwardness. Hence, the return to music. Something loud to drown out my thoughts, something mellow to calm me down, something to get angry with, something to sleep to. So, here we go, two years later and headed towards the end of 2016 I’m bringing back the Jam Session. I might even get crazy and start working on a Top Albums post. Who knows. But for now, I’m just glad to have done this and share it with yall.
The Young Hearts by Myka Relocate
I had never heard of Myka Relocate until February of this year, a solid 5 months after the release of their sophomore album The Young Hearts. I went back to dabble a bit with their 2013 debut and was largely unimpressed which is surprising considering how much I enjoy their second. Although this Houston group doesn’t particularly do anything new or different for the electro-inspired metalcore subgenre, they are refreshing and downright good. The electronica intros, effects, sampling and atmospherics are blended nicely with the standard chugchug and riffage of this style of metalcore but the simplicity of the song structures don’t detract from the overall experience. Michael Swank’s clean vocals are a reminder of the popularity of tenor singers within this genre and fit very well next to and between John Ritter’s gravely growls. Musically, much of the album is straight forward for electrocore. Light, poppy fills with breakdowns galore and powerchord infested choruses that will keep your toes tapping throughout the record. Some parts may even get your ass shaking. The breakdown in “Cold Hearts” really startled me the first time I heard it because I was not expecting such a sudden shift in tone and cadence that gets my hype as fuck. “Only Steps Away” is the sappy love song power ballad of The Young Hearts and has lovingly found its way into a sing along playlist of mine; easily the best singing work of Swank’s. “Bring You Home” and “Nerve” are the best songs to summarize what Myka Relocate do with hella catchy choruses, blended vocals and thrashy bridges nestled between 808s and keyboards. If you keep coming back to I See Stars, Asking Alexandria and Issues, I promise that The Young Hearts by Myka Relcoate is worth your time.
A Seat At The Table by Solange
After I finally came out of my musical slump, I paid attention to what friends were getting the most hype about. This was one of the albums that kept popping up across the board so I took the dive. I am so fucking glad that I did. It seems as if all I can do is gush and sigh happily when it comes to this one. I absolutely love the voiceover interludes that introduce the thematic for the accompanying song. This is soulful, honest, empowering protest music that captures so many aspects of the black experience. I’m not declaring my love for this album as an attempt at racial appropriation, I’m saying that people need to hear, no, FEEL this record. The blend of contemporary R&B, neosoul and 70s inspired funk was an absolutely perfect choice to nail down the meaning of this record. When considering that writing for A Seat At The Table started as early as 2008, it adds to the entire dynamic. Solange has had these ideas for years and has taken the time to perfect this for all of us to enjoy. A celebration of black culture that is timely and poignant, anyone that tells me they haven’t listened to this album will definitely get a shocked expression from me. It’s just that damn good. There is a lot of protest in this album, a lot of love, a lot of anger, and it’s worth your attention. I don’t really have much to say about A Seat At The Table, well, cuz you just need to experience it for yourself. If you wanna protest, “Mad” featuring Lil Wayne hits it. For the funk, “Junie”. The soul? “Don’t Touch My Hair”. The 90s R&B vibes are heavy on “Cranes in the Sky”. My absolute favorite song….
Low Teens – Every Time I Die
I had said it before, I’ll say it again. You don’t need to show an old dog new tricks. Low Teens proves that. ETID have been berating eardrums since 1998 and staked their claim in 2003 with Hot Damn!; they haven’t lost pace yet. I’m brazen enough to say that Low Teens is their finest work yet because it successfully encapsulates the entirety of their almost 20 year existence. ETID has always mixed different kinds of metal and hardcore across all of their albums. 2007’s The Big Dirty was their ode to southern rock and you can hear it on Low Teens’ “Two Summers”, cowbell galore and guitar licks fit for any shady hole-in-the-wall bar. The thrashy fast as fuck nature of ETID is prevalent on “I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway”,” C++ (Love Will Get You Killed), and the single “The Coin Has A Say”. I hear 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon in tracks like “Petal” and “Awful Lot” that feature squealy guitar bends and punky fills. Every Time I Die really impressed me when they messed with more relaxed, melodic songs using more clean Keith Buckley vocals like The Big Dirty’s “INRIhab” featuring Dallas Greene and again with “Old Light” on 2014’s From Parts Unknown. They did the same thing again on Low Teens with “It Remembers”, a song that showcases Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco. I was actually shocked when I saw the feature for the track but was quickly put at ease at the first listen with the slow sludge rock sounds and the excellent addition of Urie. It just works. Low Teens is a soundtrack to getting fucked up with your friends while hitting shit with baseball bats and reminiscing about the good ol’ days, walking around a derelict trailer park under a full moon on your way to a sanitarium in the deep south because yall just got kicked out of a dive for patying to hard.
Blond by Frank Ocean
When you understand that Blond isn’t Channel Orange and it was never going to be something like Channel Orange, you’ll understand this masterpiece. That was the issue I had at first. Blond wasn’t “Pyramids” or “Crack Rock” or “Monks”. But that’s okay because it still is those things, just somehow more mature. More focused and calm, collected. It’s all still here. The funk, the R&B, the hip-hop, the fusion, the exploration and creation. Have yall seen the list of contributors for this album? No? Google that.
To me, this album is perfect for contemplative car rides. It’s perfect for being couch bound in an altered state of mind with someone you really like. A nice fall day spent walking around the town running errands that you aren’t in a rush to complete. This is what Blonde is to me. Worth the wait, no rush, take it slow and feel the vibe, become one with the chill. Frank’s vocal work, bars, lack of drums and use of pipe organs on “Solo” keeps me coming back to that song over and over, even if I’m not in the mood for Blond. It’s got this flow and rhythm to it that is driven entirely but his voice. Don’t get me started on Andre 3k’s feature for “Solo(reprise)”. The minor use of a vocalizer on “White Ferrari” really had me wanting some Bon Iver which made it even better when he pops up. Again, another track on Blond that succeeds at using a bare minimum of instrumental layers but doesn’t feel less or hollow. “Nights” is the head bobbing, fist pumping track for Blond where Frank puts his lyrical expertise to work and gets you grooving right along with him just in time for the mellow shift into the second phase of the song. “Godspeed” starts off with an effected piano melody that, again, turns into another organ heavy ballad that shows us how tender and deep Ocean is as he reflects back on some of the subject matter that fueled Channel Orange. “Pink + White” is his run with R&B and soul fusion that features some killer vocal work by Queen Beyonce herself. Like I’ve said, check the credits if you haven’t.
I’m glad that I took the time to process Blond. I listened to it, formed a quick opinion and then let it sit for a bit. I came back at it after bouncing back to Channel Orange, took a deep breath, and said that it had to be something different because it is. You need this album in your life. Here’s that Andre 3k verse that I just can’t handle. Also, finding video tracks from Blond was really hard. Insert “lol”. Just get out there and listen to this record.
Mothership by Dance Gavin Dance
Once more in this Jam Session, another band that is hard to express how much I cherish them. Dance Gavin Dance has been mentioned in this blog several times before and here I am freaking out about another album of theirs. I have loved, loved, FUCKING LOVED this band since 2007. They released a live session album earlier this year titled Tree City Sessions that is deserving of an entry in a future post including a possible slot on my Top Albums of 2016. DGD have, since their second album, been a band that was defined by change. I’m not getting into the specifics of the singers and musicians and struggles this group has been through because it is all water under the bridge. Former Tides of Man singer Tilian Pearson has made DGD into who they are now with the constant support of long time members Jon Mess, Matt Mingus and Will Swan. Mothership may be the best DGD album with Tilian at the helm. 2013’s Acceptance Speech was our first taste of Pearson and it’s only gotten better with the best showing of his range and abilities being on Mothership. Drummer Matt Mingus is still hammering off some of the most amazing drum skills in post-hardcore, Will Swan is still noodling away all kinds of weird and awesome leads while Jon Mess still kills it as one of my favorite screamers in the game. DGD’s unique blend of melody and ferocity has always been fine tuned to meet an overarching idea where beautiful choruses and fills meet fast paced kidney punching verses and breaks. The maturity and progression of DGD are led by tracks like “Betrayed By The Game” which starts with a gravely Pearson verse punctuated by lyrical expressions of heartache and loss that breaks into a booty shaking filler that gets splattered by Jon Mess’ cheeky/sardonic bridge that’s overrun with Swan’s lightning fast guitar licks. “Young Robot” has this lovely ocarina intro that flows effortlessly into a hella smooth verse that continues a head swaying rhythm before things get chopped up by Mess and company, just in time for some sweet noodling that brings forth a righteous groove that only DGD can pull off. “Deception” starts off sounding like a bed time lullaby but circles around to the full fury of a song that sounds like it could have been on 2007’s Downtown Battle Mountain. And holy fuck, check out “Chocolate Jackalope” while you’re at it.
To me, this is the best outing by this band in a long time and absolutely has me coming back around for more and more of Mothership. This album fits so nicely into the last several Dance Gavin records and the discography as a whole. Considering all of the changes that this group has been through, all the singers, all the different influences, I am still hooked. I still love them. I still want more.
Fresh off the heels of the 2014 Warped Tour stop in Nashville this past week and a mini road trip/daycation soon after, I figured it was time to drop another rant. A full week’s worth of great playlists, live music, and fun times galore, now felt like the right time to get this thing going. This post was in the pipeline even as I was finishing up my most recent Jam Session due to an overwhelming amount of new music this summer mixed with some stuff that is praise worthy and deserves a mention. Three of the bands featured below were in Nashville at Warped Tour but due to schedule conflicts I was only able to see one of them.
New Demons by I See Stars
The fourth studio album but only thing I’ve ever heard, New Demons was the 2013 release by “elecotrincacore” group I See Stars launched under the banner of #bestlabelever Sumerian Records. Produced by Joey Sturgis, the mastermind behind records by The Devil Wears Prada, Of Mice & Men, Mychildren Mybride, Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!, A Plea for Purging, Born of Osiris, blahblahblah, New Demons has something worth bringing up. Even if you think the mash-up of metalcore and EDM is outdated or silly to begin with, I See Stars pull it off quite well. Instead of using dubsteppy sections as filler, these guys make it stand front and center quite often. It’s more than background noise to bulk up the songs, the EDM is important and an integral part of their sound. Twerkable sections laced with wub-wub and keyboards are the foundation for some of the heaviest breakdowns on the record. Songs like “Ten Thousand Feet In The Air”, “Judith Rules” and “When I Say Jump, You Say How High?” are driven forward by rhythmic palm-muted chugs leading up to the next big break, all the while keeping your toe tapping from the keyboard fills behind. “Crystal Ball”, the title-track “New Demons” and “Violent Bounce” showcase the bands focus on keeping things dancy and post-effected with loads of electro goodness. Both the clean singer and screamer have lovely voices that work well together and separately. I mean it, New Demons is good.
Crosses by Crosses
Released earlier this year after kind of being in limbo for some time, thanks to #bestlabelever Sumerian Records, Crosses finally dropped their full-length after two sporadic EPs. Another side-project of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno, Crosses has a fairly different feel from most things we find Moreno dipping in to. While more in tune with the alternative stylings of Deftones’ extensive musical history, Crosses uses ambient sounds and electronica to hammer down it’s sound and separate itself from most things Chino Moreno. It’s got its own feel, its own style, its own unique characteristics that make it stand out. The smooth drum machine mixed with instrumentals and electro on “Prurient” along with the gloomy tone of “The Epilogue” and the aggressive tendencies of “This Is A Trick” showcase what Crosses are all about. Lyrically, much of Crosses is fairly straight forward in being about interactions, emotionally and physically, between a man and woman. However, it’s done without being tacky or cliché. Some of the songs get downright sensual, tracks like “Bermuda Locket” and “Telepathy” in particular. Crosses induces a state of mind that has such a connotation for me, that I find myself drawn to it when I need to space out. Definitely good music for a gloomy day or when the lights go out and it’s time to unwind or unravel.
Lowborn by Anberlin
The first of the two aforementioned bands that I didn’t see at Warped because of reasons, I’ve been a fan of Anberlin since I got my hands on a copy of Never Take Friendship Personal probably sometime around 2006. Their third studio album Cities would be somewhere on a list of favorite albums of my life. Seven albums later, two label changes, and some undeniable growth and change as a band, Anberlin is calling it quits. After a little over 10 years of making music, Lowborn is the band’s final outing. And it is fairly different. Lowborn has a very 80’s feel to it. Mixed with atypical Anberlin alternarock, “Stranger Ways”, “Losing It All” and “Harbinger” possess instrumental sounds and effects that would fit quite nicely on a 1980’s or New Wave radio station, playing off the very post-effected tone of their last album Vital. Much of Lowborn seems disconnected from everything else Anberlin has done but manages to fit in at the same time. “We Are Destroyer”, “Armageddon”, and “Birds Of Prey” in particular sounding like they could belong on Cities, Dark Is The Way, and Vital respectively. As a final album, it’s pretty weak for Anberlin. But overall, it works well and stands out against their discography in a positive way.
No Sleep by Volumes
The second of the bands I didn’t get to see (I chose to see Every Time I Die), Volumes’ sophomore release No Sleep was one of my most anticipated albums for 2014. The hype surrounding this record was everywhere in the djent community. People yearned and pined for this one. It doesn’t disappoint. Received very well, No Sleep slammed into the iTunes charts with a force that catapulted them very, very high to the top of the Metal list and the iTunes Top Albums. Incredibly impressive for an unsigned band that wrote, recorded, produced, and released all of their music. Something they talk about quite vehemently in the opening track “The Mixture”. Musically, Volumes is pretty standard as far a djent goes but they are one of the frontrunners in the genre. No Sleep hits super groovy, head banging riffs in “Pistol Play” and “Vahle” with incredibly memorable and catchy songs like “Erased” and “Across the Bed”. The breakdown a little over a minute in “Neon Eyes” is insane. Most of No Sleep deals with a more personal approach to man and woman than the usually vague lyrics of Crosses, the second band of this blog. Lyrics in “Vahle”, “Up All Night” and “Erased” in particular with “Across the Bed” being downright sexy. The mix of clean and dirty vocals is impeccable and well-placed, nailing down the best choruses on the album. No Sleep will definitely return on my Top 10 Albums of 2014.
Disgusting by Beartooth
The only band mentioned that I saw at Warped, Beartooth was the first set of the day. I had found out about them only days before their set. I was looking through the bands that would be playing and randomly picked Beartooth. I was hooked instantly. I didn’t shut up about them for days. Disgusting was released about a month and a half before they Nashville Warped. Frontman Caleb Shomo was the keyboardist/programmer for the incredibly popular electronicacore group Attack Attack!. Shomo was working on Beartooth songs before the band’s 2012 break up as an outlet and for fun. After tracking some demos, getting picked up by Red Bull Records, and making an EP, Beartooth became a real thing and I’m so glad they did. I am so incredibly addicted to this album it’s almost sickening. I have listened to this album on repeat for hours and started learning lyrics the first night I heard it. It’s heavy and brutal with catchy choruses worthy of a sing-along. Beartooth is a great blend of all things hardcore. Think Terror and Rise Against mixed together. Most of the subject matter is pulled from Shomo’s own battles with years of depression making many of the songs easy to relate to and increasing my affinity for them. “I Have A Problem”, “Body Bag”, “The Lines”, and “Beaten In Lips” are guaranteed to get me super hype under damn near any circumstances. I fucking love this album, I love this band. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to see them in Nash this November. Disgusting will find itself perch high on my Top 10 Albums of 2014.
Before I get started, let me say that I expect y’all to listen to each song in its entirety. That is all. =D So I guess it hasn’t been too long since I made a post. There have been quite a few new albums released since my last post and I’ve been very excited about all of it. I’ve been waiting for the right time to sit down and get this rant going and I feel like now is pretty solid. Usually the hardest part of doing a blog is this, the little intro thing I do. Do I talk about personal stuff? Do I keep it short and simple? Should I just not say anything? This time around I don’t really have much to say. For my last blog, it was very focused on what I was listening to get me through a rapid-fire series of extreme personal challenges. I was trying desperately to focus on myself while counteracting my always thinking mind with various outlets to keep myself from completely shutting down. I’m still a functioning member of society so I guess my goal was accomplished. Not saying things are back to normal, but the day in and day out is getting less and less tumultuous with only the occasional drop. Here’s hoping for something exceptional. Luckily, new music from favorite artists and a few new-to-me records are still working their magic. The summer so far has been incredibly epic, with so many anticipated albums coming out and NOT being shitty. Insane right? Warped Tour is a week and a half away, there are still several records I’m waiting to hear and I am just floored by how awesome things have been lately, musically.
Bon Iver by Bon Iver
The first new-to-me album is last year’s release from Bon Iver. I had found myself dipping out of metal/hardcore/djent and into more folk/alt/post kind of stuff for a while and asked for some help from a few people. This is pretty much the only album suggested to me that I actually stuck with. Good music shared by an awesome person, win-win. I had known who Bon Iver was but never really got into him or even tried. I knew him from word of mouth and being featured on other albums and always hearing “Skinny Love” and “Blood Bank”. I went and got his discography and started with his self-title. Despite how mellow and chill it is as a whole, I am always in the mood for it. The music, the layered vocals, the occasional use of flagrant auto-tune and drum machines. This album, holy shit, how did I let myself miss this? Note to self, be more open to the idea when people suggest you music in the future. I like just about every single song on this album, each one is dynamic and stands alone but doesn’t make the album sound disconnected from itself through all of the different approaches to each song. Songs like “Beth/Rest” with its very Phil Collins feel to it, “Michicant” with its eerily spot on lyrical references to shit I’ve recently dealt with, the swell of emotion and sounds on “Holocene” and “Calgary”, the way the first two songs “Perth” and “Minnesota, WI” flow so perfectly from one song to the next and the hits of auto-tune and electro in them. The way that so many of the tracks hit this point where you can just groove and get into the rhythm effortlessly. Fuck. Exceptional, all of it. This would have been high on my Top 10 list last year, if only I had known of its glory!!
From Parts Unknown by Every Time I Die
Changing gears from zen mode inducing tunes to super thrashy, ETID’s newest album has a sound that really pulls across their entire discography. From Parts Unknown reminds me of Hot Damn and Every Night In Town with flares of Gutter Phenomenon and The Big Dirty. If you haven’t listened to the boys from Buffalo in some time, this is where you should pick back up. The first half of the record is nonstop, over the top, balls to the wall insanity forcing you to pay attention at breakneck speeds to all the tongue and cheek lyrics indicative of frontman Keith Buckley. This is pure Every Time I Die. The opening track “The Great Secret” starts off with Buckley’s signature vocal belting out and commanding you to blow your fucking brains out. And that’s pretty much the feel for most of the songs. Party starting riffs, booty shaking grooves and downright explosive beats. The recording and mix of From Parts Unknown compliments the instrumentals blasting into your ears with finesse and pure craftsmanship. Bravo to the producer for pulling this off. Nothing ever gets lost or muddy. ETID pulls it back down to a medium pace with “Moor”, a piano chord led track starting off with a speaky singy lyrical presentation that reminds you that ETID can be pretty damn weird. In a good way. Tracks like “Exometrium” hit a rhythm that gets your butt shaking and your body dancing. “Decaying With The Boys”, “Thirst”, “Old Light” and “All Structures Are Unstable” sound like they could’ve come from Hot Damn or Gutter Phenomenon. I love this record much more than I thought I would and that’s probably why I have such an affinity for it.
Through Art We Are All Equals by Slaves
New to me cuz it’s new to everyone, Slaves is the newest musical endeavor taken up by former Dance Gavin Dance/Emarosa/Isles and Glaciers/solo artist Jonny Craig. Slaves reminds me a lot of what Jonny Craig did with Emarosa’s 2008 release Relativity. It’s got that vibe. Musically, it’s interesting. It’s like alt/post-hardcore with guitars tuned down enough to be two steps away from a djent band. “The Upgrade. Pt. II” starts out really heavy. Some of the music gets a little tech and brutal, but overall if you liked what he did with Emarosa, you’ll like Slaves. It took me awhile to get into it because I felt, much like Realtivity, even though everything is good for some reason I can’t find the connection between the music and Jonny Craig’s voice. Most of Relativity was written when JC joined and they threw his vocal tracks on top. Slaves, at first listen, felt disjointed. However, the more I’ve listened to it the more I’ve loved it. Guest artists galore, Through Art We Are All Equal features Vic Fuentes from Pierce the Veil, sister Natalie Craig, Kyle Lucas who was featured on JC’s last solo album Find What You Love And Let It Kill You, and former Woe, Is Me singer Tyler Carter who had JC sing on the closing track for their 2010 debut album Number[s]. “There Is Only One God and His Name Is Death” slows down to an acoustic lead and Jonny Craig’s lovely voice signing away some very heartfelt lyrics. “This Is You Throwing In The Towel” has a super catchy chorus and stands out as my favorite track. Lyrically, much of the content is pulled from JC’s struggles with fame, drugs, personal issues, and loss. It’s honest, open, and exposing. After all the weird vibes and general disinterest I had, I’m glad I stuck it out and kept giving this album multiple tries. If I hadn’t I would’ve missed out on just how good it is.
The Amanuensis by Monuments
That’s an album name that took me forever to learn how to spell. Monuments’ sophomore release with European powerhouse label Century Media is a front runner for my album of the year. The title is noted by the band to be a reference to the book Cloud Atlas, but lyrically and thematically The Amanuensis is about the cycle of death and rebirth. This album is so good, so thought out, so constructed and defined by its production, sound, style, instrumentals and design that it can be pretty hard to express how exceptional it is. Former Periphery/Ever Forthright frontman and vocal fill-in for The HAARP Machine, Chris Baretto stepped up and joined Monuments. His voice alone carries much of the album which is expected from a vocalist. His clean singing and vocals are pure talent. This guy can do it all, and does it well. Musically, The Amanuensis is pretty heavy in the groove department and is a current staple and standard of the forward progression of the djent genre. All of it is done with a level of care that puts Monuments at the front of the pack when it comes to this style of music. Long sections of head swaying groove underlined by an ever present punctual percussive punch from the rhythmic hit of bass notes and kick drum that keep each song grounded and solid. Catchy verses and choruses flowing perfectly with each riff, each lead part, every single aspect of the music down to the key fills and seemingly random instrumentality and sounds used that really help every single fucking song stand out so well while never degrading from the overall experience. Tracks like “Origin of Escape”, “I, The Creator”, “I, The Destroyer” and “The Alcehmist” are perfect examples of what Monuments is all about. Tracks like “Quasimodo”, “Saga City”, and “Jinn” showcase the different sides of the spectrum that the band is able to not only play with, but walk up to and demolish every preconceived notion I had about what this album was going to be like.
Once More ‘round The Sun by Mastodon
Mastodon is a band all of my close friends were fanatical about but I just never got it. So, one day, I got their discography and converted to being a fan. These guys have done much across the years and their albums. Much like 2011’s release The Hunter, this year’s Once More ‘round The Sun is not a concept album like the other 4 Mastodon records. In my opinion, Once More ‘round The Sun is the most approachable Mastodon album and is another contender for my number one album of the year. Its jam heavy, rocks out on every song, doesn’t get out of control like Remission or Leviathan but still maintains a desirable level of aggression and weight underneath all of its metal. Because I am such an audiophile, if you haven’t noticed, production is a big deal for me. I love the mix on this record, especially on headphones. One guitar on one side, one on the other, one in the middle along with vocals and drums. The whole record sounds like it was recorded in a big room with mics set to pick up the acoustics of each instrumental and vocal track. It sounds like Mastodon is hanging out in a cafeteria playing you a whole album and someone recorded and mastered the thing. Pretty neat stuff. Most of the songs are very catchy and memorable and have kept me coming back time after time. Tracks like “The Motherload”, “Ember City” and “Halloween” have these gargantuan jam sessions that you can’t help but get hype about. Turn down for what? Not this record, hell no! I’ve always been a fan of Mastodon’s vocal work and this one is no exception. It’s pretty easy for me to say this is my favorite album by these dudes. Thematically, most of the record deals with loss of a loved one and death at large. Metal as fuck. If you’ve never tried out Mastodon or turned away because you didn’t understand their other albums like Crack The Skye or Blood Mountain, now is the time to come back. This album riffs, rocks, it’s heavy, it’s delicate, it’s mathy, it jams, it should always be played loud as fuck. Plus, that album art. Damn.
Its been since Xmas Eve that I did a blog post. After all the analysis and listening to prepare for and post my Top Albums of 2013, I was burnt out. I fell into a state of not really caring what I listened to. I lost track of what bands were up to, didn’t stay on top of releases and usually found myself drifting back and forth with no reason between sounds. It was awkward and strange to get so disconnected from music. Lately, however, its been my crutch. This one thing I keep turning to in an attempt to escape the insanity of the last several months. Between outlook altering family issues and a very recent/ongoing/brutal change in my personal life….music and friends have been what’s keeping me afloat. I find myself killing downtime by destroying my eardrums via headphones, every drive I go on dominated by my iPod. Every taste and preference for what I’m listening to as shifting as my mood and thoughts. One moment I want to mellow out and do some introspection, the next a feeble attempt to drown out reality with something absurd and chaotic. I’ll want to listen to an album that reminds me of those parts in my life that were difficult as a reminder that it gets better. Other times I’ll drift towards something newer or unknown and dive in. Essentially creating future nostalgia. Its like therapy. And hey, if it works fine, why change it? This is me showing off what music I have been jamming to the most over the last month.
Dance Gavin Dance – Dance Gavin Dance
Following the completion of my blog post and release of tension surrounding my favorite albums of 2013, I feel free to venture around and listen to music that doesn’t directly revolve around the aforementioned post. It was a personal decision, as it always has been, to comprise a list of music to best represent what I felt were the best musical releases of the year. Now that that’s all done….I’m still finding music to rant about……and I always will be.
The Lonely Position of Neutral by Trust Company
So this album was the debut of Alabama-based alternative/grunge group Trust Company in 2002. Hmm…2002….I was in….8th grade when this came out and I swear that at the time I felt like this record was made solely for me. Lyrically, it’s nothing but some guy with a whispery voice singing and screaming about being sad and falling apart and being heart broken and being bummed out….which for me, in the beginning stages of my undeveloped and unnecessary start of that “angsty teen” phase, was perfect. I actually kinda sorta still really dig this album. I never grew out of or gave up on that whole alt/post-grunge/emo scene, I love all that stuff. It’s more that my tastes moved away from this kind of stuff. On Xmas Eve I imported the original CD into my computer. Yuhp, I’ve had that CD since 2002. Damn, 11 years and it still works.
The Life I Know by Gwen Stacy
I grabbed Gwen Stacy’s debut album upon its release in Feb of 2008 either before or after I saw them at Rocketown with Once Nothing, Mychildren Mybride, and someone else…or maybe…idk. I remember being so stoked to get that CD as it was the first thing I listened to in the first car I ever bought…whoa, cool shit. Doing some clicking around on the internet to get information about the band, I discovered that this album was received very, very….very poorly. AlternativePress barely gave it a 1.5 out of 5 with many other reviewers saying that this album/band was completely passable and should be avoided. I have to disagree, I love this shit. It is pretty damn mediocre and I’ve always thought that it doesn’t really have anything special. But hey, you love what you love. The riffs are solid, breakdowns galore, clean production, and overall catchy song structures. I destroyed this album, front to back and back to front on repeat nonstop and as loud as possible. It was even one of the cornerstones of a collection of albums I would “sing” along to for vocal practice.
Wolves Within by After The Burial
I’ve known about ATB, like lots of bands, for quite some time but never dove into the music. I figured that with the release of the highly-anticipated Wolves Within, now would be the time. Released last week, Wolves Within is the fourth studio album by ATB and their third with #bestlabelever Sumerian Records. The first thing noticeable about Wolves Within is the production and sound. The whole thing sounds like it was tracked in someone’s basement and then was mastered in a sub-par program by a guy who kind of knows what he’s doing and is on the verge of getting it right. But…it works, I love the tone of this record. It’s sludgy, grungy, and works well for the tuning of the guitars and the vocal style. It compliments what ATB is doing. The album itself is pretty much everything I was expecting from these guys. Technical, brutal, heavy, well-composed, and fun to listen to. It’s bouncy, rhythmic and has a style that is uniquely ATB. Considered one of the heavy-hitters of the djent genre, After the Burial’s Wolves Within is solid and catchy, overflowing with djenty riffs, chugs, and overall goodness. This album has a great blend of typical metalcore/djent fills and flare with big progressive sections of wailing guitars and driving drum sections. It wouldn’t have made it into my Top 10 for 2013, but definitely deserves a stamp of approval.
Now, the next 2 albums come from a Xmas gift I got from my girlfriend. She signed up to get stuff from Merch-Box. If you’ve never heard of it, like me prior to the gift-giving, Merch-Box is part of a slew of growing companies that, for a small fee, send you cool shit to your house monthly. Merch-box does stuff based around music. My girlfriend sneakily asked me some favorite bands and sent that info to Merch-Box. In the Merch-Box I got for Xmas, it came with: 2 candycanes, a pink bandana, some redeemable gift cards for a music site, a keychain magnifier shaped like a robot, a sticker of a piece of bacon with Kevin Bacon’s head (haha Kevin Bacon bacon) and 2 CDs. Below you will find my rants about those 2 CDs.
My girlfriend told the people at Merch-Box that I listen to Alexisonfire, Kanye West, and Tesseract. I got 2 electro CDs. Odd how much I enjoy these bands considering I said I like post-hardcore, hip-hop, and prog-metal/djent.
Sunset Blood by Starcadian
So, apparently, Starcadian is 2 Reddit users who had an idea and $200. They got “an old cockpit, a camera, and some money” to make a trailer for a fictional 1980s cyberpunk movie called Sunset Blood which they made the official soundtrack to and released on Halloween of this year. It’s pretty damn cool. The videos for the songs “He^rt” and “Chinatown” along with the trailer for Sunset Blood piece together enough of an image about this fictional movie that you can kind of get the gist of what Starcadian is going for. Like I said, it’s pretty damn cool. Starcadian’s sound for Sunset Blood is very reminiscent of Daft Punk…but if Daft Punk was making music in the 1980s for fake movies. For me to enjoy this album as much as I do, it’s really saying something. I’ve never been much of a Daft Punk fan and to say that Starcadian weren’t influenced by Daft Punk would be a lie. This album is fun, the concept is silly and exciting, the execution is flawless, the music is a mash of 1980s electro made with modern-day equipment with funky bazz lines, chiptuney 8-bit fills and the occasional dubsteppy wubwub. Three tracks on the album are theme songs for places or characters, they stand apart from the rest of Sunset Blood because they are more orchestral in execution. Seriously guys….check this out!!!
clintongore by clintongore
Brooklyn-based electro/pop duo clintongore seem to be fairly unkown. Less than 300 likes for your page on Facebook is saying something about your popularity and level of…being…known and stuff. Whatever. Their music fits nicely when paired next to Starcadian in my Merch-Box. It’s got a retro electro feel to it with lovely and smooth female vocals. I described them as being Sleigh Bells if Sleigh Bells was super chill and produced by The Postal Service and Metric with a dash of Chromeo on the side and all of this happened in 1987. Good stuff, I can’t wait to blast this on a summer road trip. I really, really, really enjoy clintongore.
With great anticipation and excitement, us of the music-snob persuasion wait with charged iPods and anxious ears to listen to something memorable and compelling. We try to stay updated on what our favorite artists are up to and when they’ll release that next record. From time to time new music will come along that changes our notion of what we love. Last year was a whirlwind of intensity, my aural senses stimulated almost exclusively by metal. This year, however, was much different. I found myself drifting in and out of genres and styles. One moment I would be bouncing to a breakdown rife with aggression and brutality, the next, chilling with a soft R&B rhythm led with soulful singing. 2013 has been a roller coaster, a constantly fluctuating thrill-ride with exceptional dynamics between my tastes and preferences in music. After much thought and hours spent with my head nestled between headphones, I’ve finally done it. I have completed my list of my top 10 favorite albums of 2013.
10. Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man
The first of several bands that I didn’t get into until this year. The best word to describe Portugal. The Man is weird. They’re just plain odd. Strange even. Their sound is psychedelic and alternative with atmospheric builds that eventual break into whatever it is that they’re gonna do. I got my hands on their discography and really enjoy each release, their 2006 debut Waiter. “You Vultures” and this year’s Evil Friends being my favorites. All I can say is that Evil Friends by Portugal. The Man is fun and enjoyable from start to finish. Being produced by Danger Mouse might have helped, just a little. Evil Friends is a great way to start this Top 10.
9. Vessel by Twenty One Pilots
I’m not completely sure how I found out about Twenty One Pilots, which is how I started my rant about them for my Jam Session 2 post. Fervently clicking around somewhere on the internet led me to their music video for the song “Guns For Hands.” After finishing that I was hooked, dashing around YouTube and Vevo watching live performances and ultimately getting copies of everything I could find. Marketed as “schizoid pop”, Twenty One Pilots have an intriguing and catchy sound. A mix of booty shaking electro fills and leads accompanied by alternative riffs and piano keys all delivered to you underneath a concoction of raps, clean vocals and screams. Considering that there are only two guys, Twenty One Pilots packs a lot into their music and should not be passed up.
8. Late for Nothing by iwrestledabearonce
I’ve always known about iwrestledabearonce and was familiar with some of their songs but never really got into them. I decided to grab Late for Nothing after figuring they kind of just fell into the ether of the universe never to be heard from again. Well, giving them a listen was pretty smart. If you’ve never heard iwrestledabearonce, prepare yourself. They are all over the place. Primarily being something close to metalcore, this band does everything in their songs. Breakdowns followed by a jazzy bridge that bleeds into a delicately orchestrated chorus. They are dynamic and chaotic with the ability to keep their music grounded and controlled. The departure of the former lead female vocalist did not hinder Late for Nothing, iwrestledabearonce picked up where they left off. I can’t think of much to say about this album other than how much I love it. Here is the very silly video for the opening track “Boat Paddle”. The song starts soon after the two minute mark.
7. One of Us Is The Killer by The Dillinger Escape Plan
Much like iwrestled, I’ve always known about Dillinger and enjoyed what I had heard from them but never gave their music a chance. One of Us Is The Killer is phenomenal. It’s crazy, spastic, loud, and seemingly without purpose at times. Once you dig in to the riffs and rhythms you can start to find queues and signs that these guys known damn well what they’re up to, it is what has always made mathcore an exciting genre. The music and vocals are raw and intense, with tracks like “Prancer” and “Hero of the Soviet Union” being wildly untamed. However, Dillinger also knows how to calm down and mellow out, even if for a moment, with songs like “Crossburner” and the title-track. I keep getting pulled back into the calamity that is One of Us Is The Killer.
6. The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake
The first album on this list that deviates away from metal, JT’s 20/20 Experience excels in all aspects. Chances are you know “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay-Z and “Mirrors”. Split into two separate releases, 20/20 part 1 was released in March of 2013, with part 2 following up in September. Named for the fact that both records were recorded in 20 days, JT’s third and fourth studio albums show just how talented the former Mouseketeer is. Produced largely in part with Timbaland, 20/20 feels familiar yet completely different from his 2006 release Futuresex/Lovesounds. Part 1 and Part 2 are fairly different from each other with Part 2 having a seemingly darker tone with the subject matter and music. I feel that Part 1 is stronger but that may just be that Part 1 was released first and that’s what I fell in love with.
5. Tomorrow We Die Alive by Born of Osiris
Tomorrow We Die Alive is the best example of what Born of Osiris does. Frantic and heavy with plenty of gnarly riffs and breakdowns, you can’t pass up this album. An eclectic blend of electro and technically intense djent/metalcore, Born of Osiris stand a bit apart from the rest of the pack. Following their debut release A Higher Place and their follow up Follow the Signs, Tomorrow We Die Alive is far above the prior outings by the Chicago based band. They have thrived under Sumerian Records which is responsible for several of my favorite albums from 2012 and is still my favorite label. I saw BoO back in July for the first time and even though they only played 5 songs they were fantastic live. Strumming patterns that make almost no sense, keyboard sections straight out of a dance club, and breakdowns heavier than a dying star,Tomorrow We Die Alive was beyond anything I could have anticipated.
4. Sempiternal by Bring Me The Horizon
I got swept up in the storm that was unleashed when BMTH dropped Count Your Blessings in 2007. They drastically changed the tone of their music and went on more of the hardcore side of the metalcore spectrum for their sophomore release Suicide Season and, even though I loved that album, I got turned off of Bring Me. I completely skipped out on There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It and found out about Sempiternal a couple of weeks ago. The April Fool’s Day release of Sempiternal is no joke. Bring Me The Horizon has done what so many bands fail at. They have progressed and have succeeded with the changes they’ve made. Sempiternal is by far the most mature album they’ve ever done. Musically and lyrically, it is in a league of its own. They’ve gone away from focusing on partying and general debauchery by focusing on heavier issues. Sempiternal’s subject matter is loaded with lyrics based around denouncing religion and those that have faith along with being done wrong by others. It really is something special. Frontman Oliver Sykes picked up quite a bit of clean singing and with the addition of a dedicated keyboardist, BMTH is undeniable.
3. Acceptance Speech by Dance Gavin Dance
I’ve loved this band since Downtown Battle Mountain in 2007. Through all the crazy line-up changes, lead singers Jonny Craig and Jon Mess leaving and coming back, I’ve stuck it out and enjoyed every single album. But, I must admit, Acceptance Speech is my favorite. With the addition of former Tides of Man vocalist Tilian Peterson, I feel as if Dance Gavin Dance is in its best form. Acceptance Speech has the same feel as every other DGD record, bouncing back and forth between crazy fast blast beats and guitar parts then coming back down to something you can groove to. With Will Swan still playing lead alongside longtime drummer Matt Mingus, the music is still top notch. Tilian Peterson’s voice compliments all of this so well it’s almost scary. This is DGD at their finest.
2. Yeezus by Kanye West
I love Kanye’s music. He is phenomenal, the growth and change he has shown over the years is almost unparalleled. Yes, he is crazy. Yes, he is cocky. Yes, he is a jerk…but the man makes damn good music, and he makes it the way he wants it. Yeezus is probably the best example of that. The first time I heard it I had no idea, no understanding of what was going on. After a few listens I was hooked on Yeezus, play after play. I love every bit of this album. Seeing Kanye live in Nashville with Kendrick Lamar the day before Thanksgiving elevated my appreciation and love for his music. Nuff said. I found a pretty decent video of his song “Blood On The Leaves” the way he is performing it on his Yeezus tour.
1. Altered State by Tesseract
The best thing about Altered State is that it has everything I wanted from Tessaract’s return to the studio after their debut album One. The switch to Ashe O’hara as their vocalist changed everything. His voice compliments the music perfectly, better than just about any other singer I can think of. The instrumentals of Altered State are fantastic. The level of care and thought put into every single note can be heard. From start to finish, Altered State is a masterpiece. Broken up into 4 parts, Altered State is hard for me to listen to on shuffle because the vibe and feel gets distorted, but each song stands alone so well. This is one of the best albums I have ever heard. When I mentioned Altered State in my Jam Session 3 post, I summed up the album better than I can now and I don’t want to sound like a broken record. Trust me. Tesseract’s Altered State is my number one album of 2013.
Stuff that I really enjoyed but didn’t quite make the cut (in no particular order)
Dingir by Rings of Saturn
Hate by Thy Art Is Murder
Letters Home by Defeater
Watching Movies With The Sound Off by Mac Miller
Wolf by Tyler, The Creator
Doris by Earl Sweatshirt
Ungrateful by Escape the Fate
Singularity by Northlane
Halo of Blood by Children of Bodom
Deceiver of the God by Amon Amarth
Profane by Svart Crown
Dayshell by Dayshell
Palms by Palms
Infestissuman by Ghost B.C.
The Gifted by Wale
Black on Blonde by K-Os
My Name is My Name by Pusha-T
And lastly, the stuff that I found to be incredibly mediocre or hated. Keep in mind that these albums have some super dope songs, but in general I wasn’t all about them.
From Death to Destiny by Asking Alexandria
Burials by AFI
Rescue and Restore by August Burns Red
8:18 by The Devil Wears Prada
Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
Paramore by Paramore
Holy shit it has been forever since I did a blog thing. I was pretty consistent for awhile and it was really enjoyable. Maybe I’ll get back into this. Definitely got a lot to talk about. I’m in a band, getting into a tattoo apprenticeship, been making some major life changes and realigning myself with faith, I’m about to be moving into a new new apartment and I’ve got a lovely new lady…whoa.
So, as usual, music has been a crutch. That thing that I confide in the most through rough times. I really haven’t been keeping up with as much current stuff as I have in previously but I’m still jamming every day.
Kanye West – Yeezus
When I first heard this album I was like, “…wtf is this??” But after being hooked onto the music and the amalgamation of all things Yeezy, I couldn’t stop and still can’t stop listening to Yeezus. Is it my favorite Kanye album? No. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is my favorite Kanye album. Yeezus holds it’s own in Mr. West’s discography. It gives me the vibe of 808s, he tried something really new and was able to succeed. He is still angry, still hates everything and raps about racism and his personal life. Some of his flows are violent and fueled by intensity. Others make you turn your head and wonder what in the hell is he talking about. Overall, I love Yeezus. It will be on my Top 10 list for 2013.
As Blood Runs Black – Instinct
I’ve found myself revisiting my metalcore collection more and more. Son of Aurelius, Thy Art Is Murder, Mychildren Mybride, Signal the Firing Squad. But I keep going back to As Blood Runs Black. I got Instinct on iTunes the day it came out while I was in Los Angeles and have loved it since the first listen. It’s brutal, catchy, consistent and doesn’t get old. Instinct still makes me bang my head and get hype when I hear it, even though I’ve been off of it for a few years. It’s just damn good.
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
It’s JT. ’nuff said. He is the man. If you haven’t heard 20/20 yet you need to get on that. Pusher Love Girl, Suit and Tie, Tunnel Vision, Strawberry Bubblegum, Mirrors, Spaceship Coupe…c’mon, the whole damn album is amazing. Justin Timberlake, in my opinion, pulls off his best work yet. If you don’t know, fix that. If you do know how awesome 20/20 is, here is a reminder. Oh yea, don’t forget, The 20/20 Experience is a two part album with the second half coming out this fall. Here is the debut single from it.
Tesseract – Altered State
What do you say about an album that gave you everything you wanted from it? An album that made your bones quake with anticipation, the exciting release of sheer happiness when you first heard it. That is Altered State. It is my biggest contender for my Album of the Year. Tesseract made a line-up switch and grabbed their new frontman, Ashe O’hara, who’s voice is eloquent and powerful even at it’s softest. Musically, Tesseract kept the vibe from their previous work. Groovy progressive metal with djent-inspired riffs and breakdowns that fit so well with Ashe O’hara’s voice that it is scary. Altered State, as the band described, is just one song broken up into four parts: Of Matter, Of Mind, Of Reality and Of Energy. I really dislike listening to this album on shuffle, for me it has to be played from front to back. It just works so well. I am reminded of how I felt last year when The HAARP Machine and The Faceless released their new albums. All that tension and apprehension about how good it would be was just annihilated after the first playthrough. I can’t even say what my favorite song is…damn, I love this album. Here is the really weird and creepy video that makes no sense for one of their awesome songs, Of Energy-Singularity.
Underoath – The Changing of Times
Where to begin with this one. I got it from my girlfriend after having lost my copy ages ago. Listening to The Changing of Times is like going home. You just feel comfortable while you’re there. All the memories associated with it, all the positive reminders mixed with the negative undertones but yet you still feel safe. That’s what this album does for me. It reminds me of being in high school and taking that full dive into hardcore/emo/metal/indie. This thing is a classic. It’s Underoath, one of the most important and influential bands to ever hit the post-hardcore scene in the 2000s. I was so incredibly overwhelmed the first time When the Sun Sleeps played in my car on a drive back from her apartment. It really does feel like going home after a long time away. This album, this band…it makes me speechless.
Beyond these 5, I can’t really say what else I’ve been consistently listening to. I’ve been everywhere on my iPod, iTunes and Spotify. I have been checking out Wale’s newest, The Gifted, and Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z and so far those have been very enjoyable. I still need to get my hands on the new Evan Brewer, City and Colour, August Burns Red and Defeater. Palms has their thing out, Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom have new albums. I also have about 10 new albums that I grabbed from got-djent.com and I reorganized my iPod with new and old stuff.
Gah, music…damn you in with all your awesomeness. And now I’m in a band again and making my own music. Playing bass and doing them metal vocals. I’ll post content for my band, Killing Giants, when we get some decent recordings.