Vinyl Dial: Intergalactic Almanac

I’m a nerd. I know it’s shocking. You’d think a guy making soundcloud music, and writing reviews on underground music would be the captain of the football team. I know everybody is a nerd nowadays. Comic Con is a gargantuan entity. Comic book movies dominate the Box Office. More people watch youtube videos than watch TV. You get the idea.

Yet there seems to be this memory hole of what nerdom once was. My parents–being Gen X’ers–had that, “Hey let’s hangout with everyone,” kind of mentality. And I remember distinctly their friends being super into Spawn, Star Trek, old PC western RPGs, or really adult anime like Berserk or Ghost in a Shell. It was this “adult” kind of nerdiness that kids weren’t allowed to be apart of. It wasn’t squeaky clean, polished, or dumbed down. Kids weren’t apart of it because it was either too graphic, too intelligent, or too mature. Which made it all the more alluring to me.

So when listening to this album, it’s the exact same kind of feeling of uncovering something deeper. Going into unknown places. Exploring something complex and novel. Basically, it was like being a nerd all over again. I mean how can you not like cover art like this?

Vinyl Dial is completely devoted to their concept on this concept album. Which is an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish. Sure David Bowie has done a really great job at making concept albums. So has Pink Floyd. Yet even they will have songs that will take a backseat to the concept, in order to just add a song they really like. Perhaps it’s due to the fact the album is only 4 tracks, and because it’s only 4 tracks there is no filler.

Yet with the artwork above, it’s impossible to say Vinyl Dial made 4 songs because that’s what they were only capable of. Far from it. Everything in this album has that deeper layer, whether it’s the lore of the album, the lyrics, the album art, the musical composition, the vocals–I could go on and on, but you get the point.

So let’s get to the music, because after all this is a music blog. The first track Space Dragon opens up with this amazing drumming. Then when you hear the instruments–each one incredibly complex while at the same time melodic. This is one of those albums where it rewards repeat listens. It’s kind of like those paintings, where depending on your perspective, you can either see a duck or a rabbit. So for one listen you’ll really love the drumming, then the next listen you love the all the different synth textures, then the next you’ll love the lyrics and vocals. Which yes, I know that all the individual elements are supposed to synthesize, and create one sound. These songs are a lot more spacious, and vast. Almost as if you were out in space…

The album reminds me of an anecdote about Einstein that I read on Reader’s Digest. Where a guy met Einstein at a party, and Einstein asked the guy if he listened to Bach. The man confessed that he didn’t have an ear for music, and just sounded like chaos to him. Then Einstein told him that music is like math. Pop music, is like addition and subtraction. Movie scores are like multiplication. Bach is like calculus. Einstein then showed the man different records, and the man finally developed an ear for music. The same thing can be said about this album. Every song is like an entire album, yet when you breakdown and compartmentalize each aspect of it–it becomes incredibly simple and melodic. Which is something that when prog rock gets right is incredibly rewarding.

So when I say it’s nerdy, what I really mean to say, is that it this album requires a certain amount of devotion to music. Yet when you put this devotion towards it, and find all the idiosyncrasies of each track, it’s an incredible feeling. When Vinyl Dial takes you on a journey throughout the vastness of space, lyrically, they accomplish the same feat musically.

So the next song Polyhedral Cathedral, opens up with a spacious pad, amazing bass, rain samples, and the same incredible drum beat. Which reminds of Dark Souls–or anything from Soulsbourne series–where after learning about the mechanics of the individual songs, you immediately are rewarding with this beautiful environment. Everything in this track sounds beautiful, yet there is one instrument that is the rockstar of the whole song.

Which if I’m talking about rockstar, you know it’s going to be the guitar. The guitar is mixed so well into the track, that at first it just seems like part of the ambience, which it is. Yet as the track progresses the guitar starts to take center stage, and boy does it take center stage. I play guitar (badly). So when I hear someone shred I can tell the difference between someone relying on tricks and gimmicks, and someone legitimate talented. This guitar solo is Guitar God worthy. In fact if there was a youtube channel devoted to just the guitarist randomly shredding, it would instantly be a hit. Even if you don’t have the best ear for music, you gotta give props to the solo. Yes this guitar solo is extremely technical, but even the most casual music listener loves hearing a guitar shred.

Next up is Ad Astera Per Aspera, which has this electronic psychedelia in the beginning with a trudging along guitar. Then the track mutates, and warps into something that would be played during a final boss battle for an early 00’s sci-fi game. Which is fitting since this is a concept album, and as a concept album there is a story. A story that is incredibly fun, tongue and cheek, while at the same time being almost Lovecraftian. I’m not going to post any of the Bandcamp, or the lyrics up here. Because it’s so rewarding to see an album that has it’s own lore. Which is truly bizarre, creative, and so forward thinking.

I made the comparison to Dark Souls awhile back, and there is a reason for that. Dark Souls is a game that you don’t really need to understand the plot to enjoy the game–yet if you start figuring out the plot–you instantly want to replay the game. It’s the same way with this album. As soon as you read the write up, or see the lyrics you want to re-listen to the album instantly. To understand what I mean think of the kind of “mood” playlists there are. There are playlists to workout, to study, to get meditate, to get pumped up, etc. But for creative people, or people who just appreciate art, how many playlists have “imagination” playlists? Where the music serves the purpose of using your imagination. There are none.

Every kind of medium has co-opted nerd culture in some way. Whether it’s providing audiences Easter Eggs, room for speculation, ambiguity, etc. Music hasn’t really done that as well as other mediums have. I mean yeah, we have genius, but it’s used for the stupidest humanely possible songs. The bandcamp write up, cover art, and music all just add to this layer of depth. Where if this album ever were to make it really big (which I hope it does) people would be really engaged in it. I would love to see people’s artistic representation of the events that happen in this album, and I’d love to see a community come out of this album. It’s deserving of a devoted audience, not just for it’s music but for it’s presentation as well.

Finally we get to Bad Trip (First King’s ‘Bad Lullaby’ remix). This track is the sonic equivalent of a what machines dream of. It has that organic synth sound. Which is a contradiction, I know, but what I mean by that is that none of the synths feel like they’re the factory presets. Each one feels individualized and hand crafted. Which is applicable to every single aspect of this album. I know I talked about how great the guitar, and drums were in each track. Yet the same would be applicable to nearly every instrument from the samples, the vocals, the bass (which has an incredible groove), and especially the synths. This is the only track without vocals, which is a perfect way to end an album like this. You need time to breathe in the environment and reflect on the soundscape Vinyl Dial has created.

There’s no song in Intergalactic Almanac that feels half assed. Every song is firing on all cylinders, they are giving it their all, and you feel it. Almost any song you listen to, you can hear a bit of creative strain. Where the artist focuses so much on one detail that they forget to look at the bigger picture. This album is like one of those masterpiece paintings, where the more you zoom in the more intricate and complex it becomes, and yet each of those intricate little pieces could be a painting in and of themselves.

I would recommend this album to anybody who wants to truly “lose themselves” in music. The phrase is tossed out a lot, yet this is an album to truly explore. As I mentioned early the appeal of nerd culture was it’s complexity. Anybody who is a creative has the innate desire within them to explore. Yet we often find ourselves stagnant, and self absorbed. It takes albums like this (and pieces of art like this in general) to remind us of why we create. That is to explore, and create. And when an album creates something so worth exploring, then God Damn it explore it!

So I am undeniably going to give this album my recc. You cannot miss it. Vinyl Dial is so forward looking that if you don’t take some ideas away from them, then you’re going to be missing out.

Also as an added bonus here is some additional artwork for the CD release, courtesy of Vinyl Dial.

Bandy: The Challengers

https://underthecountertapes.bandcamp.com/album/the-challengers

Let’s begin this album review with a trip into the past. Back when all you had to do to find alternative music was go “Left of the Dial.” That period in time, that millenials only heard about, but Gen X’ers absolutely revere (from what I’ve gathered). Back when Nirvana hadn’t exploded onto the scene, and college radios played eclectic music. Well, actually they could still be playing eclectic music–but who listens to radio anyway?

Music history up to that point had kind of been like a dialogue between genres. Where Rock music said, “Fuck disco, it’s got no substance.” And Disco was like, “What?” And then Punk said, “Fuck Rock music. You guys are literally singing about the Hobbit, and playing Bach.” That’s the TL;DR version of how punk was started.

Now Punk was four chords of teenage angst. Then what happens to the punk rocker–who shredded on those four chords–when he goes to college? Gets laid? Learns to play his instrument? Well that’s when Alternative Rock comes into the picture, and that’s where we get to the “Left of the Dial.”

Which is the best way to introduce Bandy’s The Challengers. An album that has the fun and exuberance of a frat house, but with the intelligence of a graduate.

So what’s a better song to introduce this album, than Bring the Boys to the Basement? When that opening opening guitar hits your eardrums, it’s pure heaven. Then when aggressive strumming stops, it pauses for a moment, and then you hear it. That melodic plucking. Which in that brief moment in time, is all you need to really get this album. It’s aggressive while melodic, raw but sincere, lo-fi yet expertly produced. This dichotomous relationship is the force between every song. Every track sounds like the sonic equivalent of “Saturdays is for the Boys.” Yet as anybody who has been to a party knows, one moment you’re shotgunning a beer, the next you’re telling a heartrending story about a girl you used to date. It’s that added layer of humanity that makes music like this really work.

The track ebbs and flows, yet retains this sense of youthfulness. Then you hear the vocals. The vocals have that masculine grit. Which makes it, oh so charismatic. Like the guy who walks into the party and everybody knows his name. They all know he’s a party animal, you expect a crazy wild night, and you get it. But then when it’s all quiet, people are asleep, and you two go out for a smoke. It’s just you two, and you just know him as the crazy wild party animal, but then he does something that surprises you. A random act of kindness, an emotional story, some endearing character flaw, something that brings him down to earth–to your level. It’s then you realize that it’s not because of his shenanigans that’s what makes him popular, it’s his humanity.

So while Need for Reefer doesn’t really sell my case for the vocals. After all it’s just a guy singing about needing some weed. Yet we’re still having a good time, and we haven’t gotten to the after hours. So Need for Reefer is one of those songs that you can’t help but smile at. Whether it’s the Little Richard guitar playing, the ole fashioned rock n’ roll vocals, or just the subject matter. Anybody who doesn’t crack a smile on this track has had some serious tragedy happen in their lives. Because unless Reefer has burnt your crops, raided your village, and kidnapped your daughter; there is no possible way you cannot smile at this song.

It’s not irony, since being ironic is a social clutch to avoid being made fun of for being sincere. No it’s pure fun. It’s the type of song you write with your friends, laughing to yourselves on how you’re getting away with it. An attitude the underground scene desperately needs. Where people are either these tortured tormented souls, or are so ironic that nothing really matters. Everybody needs to take a breather and not take things so seriously. And if you want that in music form, then this is the track for you.

Now I touched on it briefly, there’s no denying the 50’s rock feel of this track. While I said that punk was a response to Rock–I was half right. Rock music had grown indulgent, and punk wanted to strip that indulgence down to it’s bare essentials. Now how they did this, was to combine the grittiness of say The Stooges, and the 4 chord song structure of popular 50’s music. The Ramones, in particular, were influenced just as much by Phil Spector and 50’s pop music, as they were in The Stooges. So punk has always had this unconscious or accidental throwback to a 50’s rock n’ roll. And no track better exemplifies this than Need for Reefer.

Next in Tale o’ Whoa we get that homage of punk music, with it’s bizarro lyrics, energy, and short brief guitar solos. Yet one thing that has got to be mentioned is the drumming. Now while Trying to Reach You is a better illustration of the drumming prowess that’s displayed throughout the album. This is the first glimpses you get into Bandy’s drumming prowess. The drums are not just expansive, THEY’RE HUGE. They say that Keith Moon was an excellent drummer not solely because of his talent, but for his ability to use every single drum on his drum set. This whole entire album is a perfect representation of how a drummer should play drums. Yeah, brevity is the soul of wit and whatever. But if you’re going to buy a drumset you better use the whole damn drumset.

Now remember when I mentioned earlier how the vocals are incredibly charismatic? Not just because they have that rowdy kind of edge, but because they have a degree of humanity? Well Passing the Rhyme is the track to show how tender the vocals can be. As tender a charismatic singer of a “Good time rock n’ roll band” can be. The beginning guitar has this sort of nostalgic wistful kind of feel, while the vocals croon, growl, and howl. Even the piano flourishes and guitar solos, have this tinge of sadness.

Though it’s not a sadness that drenches you in melancholy. Rather it’s that kind of sadness that comes from a bad breakup. Yeah, it sucks that you’re going through a breakup, but God damn if you aren’t relieved it’s over. When the singer sings “La la la” and you hear that chorus–it doesn’t matter if you haven’t gone through a break up–because you’re already feelin’ it.

Now let’s jump into I Dream of Trash and Skin Diving in the Sea of Trash. This is the point in time that if you don’t “get” the album, these are the songs to listen to. It’s also why you should listen to albums in their entirety rather than cherry picking songs, but that’s a whole other issue. These tracks are the anthem of punk rock. If you wanted to distill punk to it’s purest element, away from all the microgenres, and bullshit–this is it. It’s that child like song lyrics that calls back from songs like “I just wanna sniff some glue.” It’s that unbridled creativity that makes you stop and think, “I can write songs about diving into trash?” It’s the track that shows you that everything is possible, and just when you get hooked on the lyrics–Bandy pulls the rug from under your feet.

How do they do that? Well they slow down the track, or just play slower and sing lower. The distorted guitar sputters out of control in the background. And it sounds like everything is falling apart. Then when it sounds like the track is about to fall into chaos. BAM. Skin Diving in the Sea of Trash starts banging away, and everything falls into place. It’s that controlled anarchy, that is what made punk great. And when I say controlled, I mean there was anarchy while music was blasting through the speakers. That kind of spirit in punk, has been dying for awhile, yet listening to this track gives me hope.

Finally we get to The Truth is a Lonely Place, the victory lap in an already great album. A song that swells up in punk energy, to then slow down and deliver some soul. Yet when Bandy says the “Truth is a Lonely Place” I think they mean that being a good old rock band is a lonely place. After all there wouldn’t be an army of 12 year olds born in the wrong generation if this wasn’t the case.

When starting this blog I was wanted to capture that “Left of the Dial” kind of experience that people had back when “alternative” music was still in it’s underground phase. This is why I started this blog. This album has energy, creativity, and just the right amount of charm–it’s something you can’t find anyway else. It’s why when I write reviews on albums, I’m almost always blown away as to why they aren’t getting enough attention. And why it’s always so exciting to hear.

So obviously, without a doubt, if you want an album that reminds you of why you like music. Or why you make music. Then this is the album for you. With that I’ve give this album my full recc.

Musicians Need to Respect Their Listeners and Add an Easy Mode

Hello old saw of new original music, not nice to see you again. How many times have I encountered new original music, that’s challenged my expectations, and changed my perspective of music. I’ll be honest it hasn’t been a pleasant experience.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really love me some Demi Lovato. But the problem with underground music is that unless somebody wants to listen to The Velvet Underground 100 times, it isn’t a rewarding experience to listen to new challenging music. Most people just don’t have the time to listen to new music, and as a result music has become an elitist insular community, when it should be more accepting and accommodating.

Ideally an easy mode would include 3-4 notes, 4/4 time signature, 3-4 instruments, and maybe vocals. Which is by far more accommodating to the general music listening populace, than most music on the radio. And this is what I’ll never understand about music fanboys and their continual, aggressive insistence that the mere presence of an easy mode would somehow compromise a special experience. It’s worth saying, time and time again: an easy mode does not have to change the core experience in any way, at all, period. Listening a version of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures that had an easy mode would, theoretically, be completely identical to listening Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures now. The continued insistence that an easy mode would somehow affect the normal mode seems to represent a listener’s lack of respect for themselves, an idea that they would not be able to listen to the music that they want without ruining it for themselves.

There’s a lot of talk about “respecting the listener” when it comes to not including an easy mode, an idea that all music listeners should listen to the song the way the artist intended. And yet I think the lack of an easy mode showcases the exact opposite. It shows an almost stunning lack of respect for music listeners with the idea that they cannot be trusted with their own music listening experience, that even those who want a challenging songwould somehow be lured by the siren song of lower difficulties and destroy their own experience because they’re too impatient or immature to know what they actually want. The Genius youtube video series is a perfect example of this: I never used it once while listening to Bruno Mars, because I knew what experience I wanted. I didn’t get as into Lady Gaga, and so I used it liberally.

I don’t say this because I have bad taste in music. I say this because the music community has a responsibility–no, an obligation–to make music more accessible to the listener. After all how can deaf people share in the experience of listening to the latest Taylor Swift song? There’s an entire segment of the American Population that can’t even into music because they can’t hear it, and that’s just not right.

I mean, it’s not like I have this belief because I am an idiot and can’t into music. No I have this belief because I am morally superior to you. I am an ubermensch fighting on behalf of those who never asked me to fight for them. And really isn’t that why we all became journalists?

James 3K: You Make Me Want To Talk About It

Who doesn’t like a song with a nice groove? Nobody. That’s the answer to that rhetorical question.

Immediately the track starts off with this amazing guitar. The kind of guitar that if you were to listen to it on the street, you’d immediately start walking with a swagger. That’s how cool it is. Yet I said this track had a groove, and I’ll be getting to that, but you gotta recognize style when you see it. After all if you wear the flashiest suit on earth, but don’t have the confidence to back it up, then you turn cool to cringe. And nobody likes to cringe.

Nobody can deny the coolness of a track that’s got some groove. Yet it’s how you present it that matters. From the funky bass lines, the heavy synths, the amazing vocals, the gunshot samples–everything just works. Even the guitar at the end with that pitch perfect funky tone. And if you follow this blog you know how much I love a good guitar tone. All of these elements combine with a drum beat in this kaleidoscopic manner–where everything shifts and morphs–while retaining the core funkiness that’s needed for a track to have a nice groove.

Now everybody needs to be cool every once in awhile. Listening to this track is the equivalent of being the bigshot in town, walking down the street, feeling like a million bucks, looking like a million bucks, and who doesn’t like that?

Yet it’s not just about being cool. After all we’re in the underground here, and perhaps it’s hipsterdom, perhaps we’re a bit too clever. But being cool doesn’t really cut it anymore. As I mentioned before the track has this kaleidoscopic type of sound, the sound you won’t often find in the mainstream. While most songs bludgeon you to death with the same notes over and over and over again. This track, has so much variety, in such a short amount of time. It doesn’t become experimental, yet at the same time, you can see James 3K being fairly adept at experimentation.

So it’s not just cool. After all your older brother going to college and coming back home, seems like the coolest thing ever. Then when you find out that everything he says and does is cliched, he’s not as cool as you thought he was. This track has enough individualism, and artistry that it’s impossible for it to be cliched. So as a result the coolness never feels forced, it just permeates throughout the track. Which really is the basis for being cool–just being yourself.

AToMiC ALiEN x AJ RU$T: LAST OF OUR KIND Prod. AJ RU$T

So when I first started out with this blog, I was an idiot.

Why? Because I was dedicated to writing reviews only on albums, and not singles. Which in hindsight was a terrible idea. The reason I bring this up, is because this track is just begging for more attention.

AToMiC ALiEN doesn’t just drop bars, he drops bombs. Comparing him to most cloud rappers, is like comparing Michael Jordan to a high school basketball team. AToMiC ALiEN is playing a grown man’s game while everybody else is playing “make believe.” Now why do I say this?

Each verse he drops is so expertly crafted. The verses shift in rhythm like a great drummer knows the perfect drum fill. Actually let me shift the comparison AToMiC ALiEN drops bars, like machine gun fire. Which is a lot more filling, listening to this coupled with the heavy distorted soundscape, makes this track sound so vicious. It’s rap with testosterone, and what’s not to like about that?

Now that I got the actual rapping out of the way, the production deserves some praise as well. Everything from the distorted guitar samples, the alarm going off, the heavy distorted 808’s, and the electronic glitches just adds to it’s savagery.

Most rap on the radio talk about going hard, but nothing sounds like it’s going hard. Almost everything on the radio has this weird drugged up feel to it, while the guy is rapping about fucking girls, doing drugs, settling grudges, and shooting guys. So since we’re talking about the music industry, it’s of course not going to sound at all vicious–that would make too much sense.

Another reason I gotta give this track some respect is mainly because I’m a sucker for AMVs. What can I say I’m a weeb at heart.

 

 

Jack Goldstein: LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

There seems to be this line drawn in the sand between what is professional, amateur, and experimental. The amateur attempts to be professional, and when that fails they attempt to be experimental. That’s why there’s a stereotype of the “Film school” Director. That aspiring filmmaker who just can’t make the cut into professionalism, so they instead set their sights low to the experimental side of things.

Then there are the “Professionals” the people who set the standard. And because they set the standard; in their wake they leave behind a trail of imitators. That’s when things get boring. It’s how we get Zack Snyder, Generic Popstar A, B, and C–it’s how we get stasis. In that stasis we forget why we even love the art form that used to be so near and dear to us. If everything is the same, how can it speak to me?

Yet what happens when a professional turns to the experimental? Now that’s an interesting combination. That’s where we get our Kubrick’s, our Picasso’s, our Beatles’ and even our Kanye West. When listening to Jack Goldstein, it is impossible to believe that this person is an amateur. No, this is a professional. Not only is he a professional, but he is a professional in the avant garde.

Now that maybe a strange way to start a review, but I’ve just begun. The first track on this album, LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, is an abnormal introduction. To begin with it doesn’t start off with the album’s strengths, which are mainly the vocals, until a good 30 seconds into the song. Instead we hear this pulsating ambient noise. This ambience is something strange foreboding, something so foreign and alien, and yet there’s no other way to start this song with a title like LOVE, THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. After all if you have an answer, you need a problem. This kind of answer/solution type of sound pops up throughout the album. In this track in particular it works incredibly well.

Why? You might ask. Well the ambient sound is unnatural, or maybe it is natural. It’s hard to tell. Whether it’s some ambient tape loop, some sample slowed down and reverbed out, or maybe just some synth put through some bizarre effects. Either way the droning nature of the noise creates this sort of unease. This introspective kind of feeling that what you’re listening to is unnatural, that it’s not quite the state we should find ourselves in. Yet, we still find ourselves in it. It’s a state of being unable to love. Whether it’s the job that you’re stuck in–all the while dreaming of a career up on the stage. The relationship you’ve settled for–seeing more and more flaws as the days progress. The mundane life you live–all while believing that there just has to be something more. All of these feelings wash over you, and then it happens. The vocal harmonies.

Suddenly you find yourself immersed in these heavenly vocals, while this soothing keyboard lulls your anxieties away. When Jack Goldstein presents a problem, such as the existential angst of modern existence, he’ll provide a solution. All in the span of little over a minute. And we’re just getting started.

WE’RE STARTING OUT is a not only a great song, but a nice segway to review the rest of this album. I mentioned this before that Jack Goldstein isn’t an amateur. There’s an orchestral beginning to this track, with an almost atonal string section. Yet it’s atonality isn’t chaos, rather it sits on the edge of harmony and chaos. Then comes the drums. The drums are so layered, so complex, and so creative; that it almost becomes this jungle kind of sound. The drums and bass of this track forms a foundation for Jack Goldstein to really experiment. There are flourishes of vocal harmonies, samples, keyboard flourishes, it’s got the whole nine yards. These sounds often ebb and flow within the track, providing emotional ups and downs as the track progresses. It’s in this ability to experiment and provide emotional clarity that Jack Goldstein shows off his craftsmanship; and what separates him from the “professionals” and the “amateurs.”

Next we have CINQUE PORTS. I already touched on how talented Jack Goldstein is at creating vocal harmonies, drum beats, samples, etc. But on this track he introduces another layer to his sound. The guitar. Now like I’ve said before, I am a sucker for somebody who knows how to use guitar tones. I’m the type of person who likes to watch people purchase, say, a telecaster and a gibson and watch them jam out. Mainly for entertainment, because I’ve got no life. But the other reason is because almost everybody plays guitar. Throw a stone in a crowd, and you’ll probably hit at least one guitarist. Yet what separates somebody who plays guitar, and somebody who plays guitar (besides the italics) is their ability to know how to craft a certain sound, and thus create a certain feel.

In the beginning you have this trebbly, thin, distant, sounding guitar, which then gets overtaken by this fat sounding trudge of a guitar. Each of these compliment each other, as the sound puts layers upon layers of different guitar sounds. Yet it’s not like listening to Bach, where (and please don’t hurt me) it’s so complex it feels like listening to a math problem. No this is something that you can hum along to.

Even the little glitchiness, cascade of guitar effects, and electronic bleeps and blurps provide little nuances. Kind of like when you’re watching an actor pull off an emotional scene, and the veins on their forehead protrudes, or snot comes out of their nose while they’re crying. While those are actors who are so into the role that they feel the emotion they’re conveying. This kind of emotional flourishes comes not from spontaneity but rather careful planning. After all this was recorded with modern equipment, trying to capture that live kind of sound with all of it’s human elements is incredibly difficult. Yet Jack Goldstein somehow manages to pull it off.

So the next song DUNGENESS does something that is incredible. How do you make a song lighthearted, fun, comfy, all the while being experimental? After all experimental music isn’t known for being upbeat. In fact it’s nearly impossible to find a song that’s experimental and that’s not abrasive. Yet here is DUNGENESS which is probably one of the most upbeat songs I’ve ever heard. How does he do it? Well with a banjo of course!

Now if you’re like me and you hear a banjo two things come to mind: Deliverance and Banjo Kazooie. Which I’m sure a lot of psychologists would have a field day with since one is about male on male sexual assault, and the other is an N64 children’s game featuring a bear and bird. Now this isn’t an instrument one would expect to find in a British avant garde album, yet here we are.

Now why do I bring up this instrument since there are a plethora of other instruments that are probably more important and more prominent in the track? Well as musicians we often find ourselves limited in due to genre, convention, what sells, image, etc. Yet we never really utilize everything that’s within our arsenal. Better yet, imagine being a painter and for some reason you never use the color orange. You paint picture after picture, and then one day you see somebody paint this beautiful painting using orange. It’s that sense of freedom knowing that if one thing is possible, then everything is possible. Which is why even though if you were to take out most of the obscure instruments of the track, and even Jack Goldstein’s father’s monologue, and replace it all with something more conventional–the track wouldn’t be as fun to listen to.

Then we get to BECKON CALL most of the music has been pretty optimistic, or I’d just say fun to listen to. BECKON CALL is when it gets real. It’s the kind of track that I’d imagine being played out in some moody detective movie in the 80’s that never has existed, because no movie during that time has been that good to deserve a song like this. It’s mainly due to the spaghetti western guitar strumming, the moody  synths, and gritty trumpet playing. Something that would be playing while the detective is on the third act of his story arc–pours himself a whiskey without the ice–and has ran out of leads. We all know how the story plays out, yet it’s good artists who know just how, when, and why to subvert our expectations to then deliver a twist that everyone will remember. And Jack Goldstein knows when to deliver a good twist.

The sound then devolves into this cacophony of what sounds like Modern Jazz and then gets overwhelmed by this electronic swarm and then…You’re cruising. The sound develops into this moody kind of groove. That kind of groove you get when you’re in the zone, when you get over your two left feet, and dance in harmony with that beautiful girl in the club. And this isn’t some bump and grind kind of dancing–this is that soulful, baby making, take this girl home to mom but don’t tell her where you met her, kind of dancing.

Then the last piece of the song is a triumphant rock track. Something you could imagine Led Zeppelin playing sold out arenas towards. Which judging from the previous descriptions of this track you probably weren’t expecting. And I wasn’t expecting either, this track has more twists, and turns than a soap opera. Yet narratively speaking it all works. Kind of like when you watch a really good movie and they play a rock track, because the people who made the movie know it’s good, and know there’s reason to celebrate.

Which brings us to the last song, GHOST SIGN. THIS is how you end an album. The instrumentation feels like a college football team’s anthem, and it’s that sense of victory that this track ends with. Because after all listening to this album, you can’t help but feel that Jack Goldstein has accomplished something special here. Not since Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper has an album sounded so experimental and yet at the same time accessible. This isn’t an album to listen to, it’s an album to lose yourself to, to immerse yourself in the experience, and understand what pop music is capable of.

I said when reviewing this album that I haven’t heard any British music that’s been submitted to me that’s sounded bad. But GOD DAMN I didn’t expect it to sound this good either. This album comes out May 12th, and I URGE YOU TO BUY IT. I’m not getting paid for this, and there’s no benefit for me to shill this album. Yet I can’t help but want to show this to as many people as possible.

So undeniably this album gets my recc, and BUY THE ALBUM. This album NEEDS to be on your radar, because if it’s not you’re missing out, and there’s nothing worse than missing out.

Alpha Chrome Yayo: Malediction Boulevard

https://alphachromeyayo.bandcamp.com/album/malediction-boulevard-ep

Let’s be honest here, who doesn’t wish that 80’s music sounded like modern synthwave? As mentioned before, most of synthwave is kind of a wish fulfillment. Like how in 40’s-50’s serials promised a world of adventure, but audiences received a cardboard set and a B-list actor. Then Spielberg and Lucas come along and say, “Hey what if we gave those serials that we loved as kids a bigger budget?”

Great synthwave is the equivalent of seeing a niche B-movie get the A-list treatment. Obviously I say all of this because the cover art reminds me of The Fly. Because after listening to this, I want this to be that movie’s soundtrack. It has that perfect synthy buildup–that unresolved tension–that makes it oh so spooky. Then when you hear the guitar shred–pure heaven.

But it’s not just the leads that make this song great. Hearing that perfect bass groove–with laser like focus–is exactly what makes this track, an A-list track. Then when the tom fills kick in, you know you’re in for a treat. I mean I am biased, but when I hear some good tom fills–I’m already sold.

From the lead synth and guitar, to the drums and bass; nearly everything in this track delivers. It’s the A-list treatment to a B-list music genre. Also let’s be real if 80’s synth music was as good as it was hyped up to be. Then there wouldn’t be an 80’s sound. There would only be an electronic sound. So if you want to hear some good electronic synthwave goodness then check this track out!

Eric C. Powell: Need A Place

There’s nothing more I love when an artist knows how to use the tools given to them. Now there’s a lot of synth/electronic bands out there. Yet what separates the novice from the professional is the execution. What’s there not to like about this track? From the textures of the synths, the clear and precise production, and the amazing vocals. The sound is universally appealing, while at the same time Eric C. Powell creates an electronic soundscape that sounds like no other.

How does he do this? Well my money would be on how well he meshes and fuses different musical influences. Which produces a sound that is both novel, and at the same time familiar. After all isn’t creativity the synthesis between two diametrically opposed opposites? The opposites in this case being experimental electronic music, with the more dance-able EDM influences that pulsate in the background. Kind of like if Gary Numan and DeadMau5 had a child, and that child was a prodigy.

Then let’s get to the vocals, because if I were to skimp out on mentioning the vocals I’d be doing this track a tremendous disservice. Everybody knows that female vocals are generally better than male vocals. You know it, I know it, we all know it to be true. With the vocals lulling you to this meditative state, and the electronic music pulsating in the background–it’s an overall joy to listen to. Even though the electronic music is highly complex, it doesn’t detract from the vocals–far from it. They both work in tandem to create this amazing soundscape that’s worth repeat listens.

This is just a tidbit, of music to come, and album that will so be released. So keep your eyes peeled for when Eric C. Powell releases his album, because I’m sure it will be a joy to listen to!

kate can wait: howl youth

https://katecanwait.bandcamp.com/album/howl-youth

Romance is a fickle thing. You never knew exactly when you were in love, or when they were in love with you. Yet you could probably–with pinpoint accuracy–find the moment in time when they weren’t in love with you. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature in the human condition. Where in the moment we don’t really recognize romance, or the times that were romantic, as being romantic. If we were all honest with ourselves, we would see that those moments were always a mixed bag of emotions. One moment we’re annoyed that they can’t figure out what to order, then after the breakup we see it as an endearing character flaw.

Really great artists are able to sort out the mixed bag of emotions of our daily lives, and provide it with a narrative. The narrative is often the medium of which they chose to express it with. For example, if you choose to represent a romance on a video game you have a whole set of problems and barriers; than say if you were to represent a romance on a movie screen. So when reviewing howl youth, a bilingual folk album, released on Valentine’s Day; the question we gotta ask ourselves is–does this album capture those fleeting moments of romance? The answer is a resounding yes.

To begin with when do we find out when something is romantic? Is it at the moment? Or does it happen far after the fact? Most of the time, we can only look to romance as something that happened in the past, and that past often refers to a breakup. What kate can wait does that is special though is that she is able to separate the mixed bag of emotions we often feel at the end of a relationship. Each song paints a vivid soundscape to a point in time of any relationship, the initial love, passion, being together, falling out of love, and finally the breakup.

Alright, so let’s begin this review. So the first thing you should notice when listening to howl youth is how amazing the vocals are. And when I say amazing, I mean that it’s the kind of voice that when you hear it, you immediately want to start singing just like that. This song also introduces the fact that there are going to be only two instruments throughout this whole album; vocals and guitar. Yet this album has more textures, conveys more emotion, and has a richer than most electronic music with 50,000 plugins, presets, settings, and synths. Also because this album only features vocals and a guitar can do something that most of electronic music can’t do; sound vulnerable.

This vulnerability is the most immediate thing that strikes you as you listen to it, with the melancholy guitar plucking away, and sad vocals; you can’t help but feel the emotion pouring out of this track. Then when you look into the lyrics, another wave of emotion will hit you. The bitter lovers quarrel, before you were a lover. The relationship you were apart of, before you were in a relationship. It’s your parents.

Now everybody can remember their parents arguing. If your parents didn’t argue, then they probably were divorced or separated way before you could form any memories. Yet this relationship is as intimate of a relationship as any that you would later be in. You are a child, and as a child you are the center of the universe. A lover’s quarrel between your parents isn’t seen as a lover’s quarrel, it’s seen as a quarrel between you and them. So what kate can wait does here is set up the innocence of childhood.

Chasing feathers one at a time
problems in the house
were settled with wine

A carnival spirit
in love with the light
The moon only takes from the soul
in the night

The line “Chasing feathers one at a time” recalls a point in time of innocence where even a mundane object like a feather was met with wonderment. Yet the line, “problems in the house were settle with wine” hints at a more ominous scenario, as though the brief period of childhood is being interrupted by something more adult. Which is further compounded on by the lyrics, “A carnival spirit in love with the light. The moon only takes from the soul in the night.”

Then when we get to the end we see the formation of that child’s core beliefs–as people say in rehab–that is the building blocks at which they approach the world in adulthood.

A lover’s quarrel turned into hate
but lovers don’t squander a turning of fate

The boy in his bedroom grew to despise
the dark weathered world
the rising tide

With this introductory song, not only do we get a fantastical brooding soundscape, but we get exposition of what the rest of the lyrical content will be. Like a great filmmaker kate can wait, starts us off with the exposition that not only to understand the formation of everyone’s concept of a relationship, but heightens the drama that will unfold as we go on this lyrical journey into a breakup. Where when the highs are high, we understand how important it is due to the opening track, and how much more tragic it is when it all falls apart. Now mind you this is only the first song. There’s a whole entire album filled with just as much emotion, lyrical content, and beautiful sounds.

The next track summer vibez has a much more upbeat tone than the previous track. Although that happiness is deceiving as mentioned previously. The exposition of the prior track taints the rest of the album with this sort of melancholy. And even though tracks like this may seem all sunshine and roses, they will eventually morph into this melancholy nostalgic recall. So how does kate can wait accomplish this?

Mainly she does this by double tracking the first set of vocals–as though they are in a duet. After all this song is a romantic one, and it takes two to tango. This vocal harmonizing does two things, one it beefs up the happiness of the chorus, and two it kind of adds a layer of protection for the listener. We hear double tracked vocals all the time, or just vocals that are put through post production. When that gets removed it’s often so startling for modern ears, that it’s like watching a play and then all of a sudden the actors get naked. It’s that shocking sense of vulnerability coupled with the themes of the song that adds to this sense of loss, that plays throughout the album.

Then we’re left with this amorphous ethereal vocal harmony, that shifts around this soundscape like a ghost who–all though is in the present–can’t escape the past, and stays in this purgatory between two worlds. That of the present and that of the past.

So when we get to déjame, as you can guess is in Spanish. Now this may turn some people off to listening to the album. Due to the fact that for some reason only English is the only language for pop music. Which is of course nonsense. Spanish is a Romantic language, which lends itself well to music. If you don’t believe me, try singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Spanish, I’ll wait… Alright now that you’ve done that, do you see how much easier it is to sing? Or how much better it sounds? That’s because Romantic languages lend themselves well to music.

So when we get to songs like, déjame, licantropía, vesti2, or faros; kate can wait’s vocals are really able to soar. That’s because English is an incredibly nasally sounding language. When an artist is bilingual, and not only bilingual, but bilingual in a Romantic language; you better believe that the songs that are sung in Spanish are going to have some amazing vocals. Yet, being that they’re in Spanish, and it’s not my native tongue. I can’t really comment on the lyrical content, because let’s face it Google translate really sucks. Plus it would be disrespectful to the artist to do that. Yet I encourage you to listen to those songs, and see how much smoother the vocals sound, than they do in English.

Now that’s out of the way let’s get to puppy love which starts out with this almost 50’s rock feel to it. Which is surprising, yet not unexpected. As mentioned before, this album is incredibly well made. Not just from a production standpoint, but from a composition standpoint as well. Listening to this album, you can’t help but feel that kate can wait, not only is an accomplished indie folk musician but one who is an adept student of music itself. It’s said that “Good Artists copy, great artists steal.” A quote from Steve Jobs, from a quote he made up that Pablo Picasso said. Which isn’t true at all, good artists STUDY ART. That should be the immediate takeaway from that guitar.

Secondly is that the guitar has  so much energy and exuberance, that it feels like puppy love. The kind of young love that makes you want to go out and have adventures. The lyrics are exuberant to a point. That point is up until the breakup, then the melody changes from exuberance to that of mourning. You can pin point the changes from lyrics that say, “when we were young I called it puppy love, but now I call it spending my life with you.” To “The winters are painful ever since you left.” The soundscape changes with each revelation, as mentioned before this song isn’t about romance in the moment, but a romance that is long gone.

lady hydrangea is really a showstopper. If there was any song I’d show anybody to understand why this album is so good, it would be this one. Everything is tumultuous. It’s that kind of whirlwind of emotion you get when you call back your exe hoping you get back together. The whole moment you are just overwhelmed with sadness, yet there’s that slight glimmer of hope. That hope that maybe if you just say the right words–that it will be like magic–and you’ll be back together. Although that never happens, so we’re left pleading with them forever until you finally give up and succumb to loneliness.

How kate can wait does this is by layering the guitars. Each one conveying a different set of nuanced emotions, that are as rich and deep, as they are simple and straightforward. The best comparison I could think of, is of the Smiths and how Johnny Mar’s guitar playing was so melodic and simple. Yet when layered together creates this harmony of noise that creates the perfect backdrop for Morrissey’s melancholy guitar. Whereas the Smiths had 4 people, kate can wait has one guy. Which makes it all the more impressive how she managed to create such a rich sonic soundscape.

Finally we get to chinese takeout with it’s ambient noise, whistling, and quirky name it doesn’t seem like the track that would be the end to such a tragic album as this. The lyrics tell a different story. “The innocence I’ve found. I held you tight in fear that you too would go. A memory we saved.
Laughter into sadness over Chinese takeout.”

Lyrics don’t get much more poignant than that. It’s one thing to be an artist, it’s another to splay your soul wide open for the world to see. Although the lyrics seem incredibly personal, they are also incredibly universal. We all remember those little moments in relationships that at the moment seem mundane, yet when it’s all over it becomes gargantuan in our psyche. While for kate can wait, it’s Chinese takeout. For someone else, it could be a “Dear John” letter in the trenches, an argument over a movie, the smell of women’s perfume on your clothes, etc.

This entire album with it’s beautiful production, amazing songwriting, and incredible guitar playing is an incredible piece of art that I would encourage anybody to listen to. It’s the best representation of a breakup that music could hope to achieve, and since everybody has gone through a similar situation. Although I skimped out on a few songs, this album has enough content to write a novel on.

With it’s moving soundtrack, poignant lyrics, and amazing guitar playing. I give this album my full hearted recc. Please check it out. I swear that you will be amazed.

 

Day Gold: Give me the Sun Forever

https://daygold.bandcamp.com/album/give-me-the-sun-forever

First let me preface this review by talking a little bit about Pensacola. I was stationed there for awhile, and it’s not one of those cities that you think about when you think of Florida. Usually people go to Orlando, Tampa, Miami, or Jacksonville. Yet this city is a jewel, and I met some of the most creative people in my life at that city.

It was all by accident. There was this chief I worked for, who was a ladies man, and was hooking up with girls left and right. Everybody who worked for him admired him, so we all tried to emulate him. He told us to dress nice, tell good jokes, get her number, and he left out other key important pieces of information–mainly don’t go to the strip club to try to get laid. Which is exactly what I did. I blew nearly $600 at Sammy’s, and when I found out that it wasn’t a magical place to get laid (“We’re strippers, not prostitutes,” a phrase I heard a lot), I decided to explore the city. That’s where I found the art scene and all the creative people of Pensacola. Every night began as a quest to get laid, only to be sidetracked by more interesting creative people.

Listening to this album for me, is just further clarification that the music scene in Pensacola, is as good as I remembered (as well as someone who was constantly drunk could remember). Let’s start with the opening track, Play in the Rain if there was any better opener to a great album, then I’ve probably never heard it. Let’s take the sample, a car passing by you on a rainy day. Immediately just by that little slice ambient noise, you already know you’re outside in the rain. It’s such a subtle little touch; kind of like when you’re reading a book, and the author provides a metaphor that you immediately understand. Then for Day Gold to incorporate that into a major part of his sound, is so creative, so intelligent, that it leaves you flabbergasted as to how someone can be so creative.

Every piece of this song (as well as this album) is so well constructed, every single element of this track from the vocals, the guitar, and even the samples are so well produced. There’s nothing that’s left up to chance, and that’s not taken into consideration. From the effects on the vocals, to the tone of the guitar–both when it strums chords, and plucks away sweet melodies. In any other song, say the production of the vocals would be the main driving point, since it’s so uniquely produced. But on this track, everything is well produced, and it’s not overwhelming or showing off. Rather everything is produced in a certain way to either convey: A. the rain, or B. that you hang on to your youthfulness and sense of wonder. Even the end guitar part, with the rain ambience in the background, on any other track it would be a real sad song. Yet with the energy and ambience of the rest of the track, it sounds less of a brooding melancholy that most songs with rain samples have. Rather it sounds like a night in with friends on a rainy day, and after a night drinking when everybody is all cuddled up someone picks up the guitar and plays a soulful tune.

This celebratory tone of this track carries through the rest of the album. By singing about the beach, being out in the sun, and living life to the fullest. But what separates Day Gold from, from say Jimmy Buffet, is how talented he is at creating a soundscape that reflects what he’s singing about. So when we take Life is an Ocean which immediately starts off with that softened reverbed out guitar, that strums ever so gently, playing this soothing melody–it’s pure relaxation. If you were to isolate that guitar, and ask someone where they’d picture themselves at, it would be impossible not to say the beach. Maybe it’s because of the wet reverb of surfer music, underwater video game music, or wherever–it’s in our collective unconscious. It’s kind of what we expect ocean music to sound like. Then when we go to the warm fuzzy guitar lead, rather than being abrasive, it’s more of a cool chilled out kind of feel. Kind of like when you’re 3 margaritas in, laying in a hotub, and you slowly start to feel the alcohol spread through your body. Then when we finally get to the vocals, which by themselves is incredibly good, yet with the production that Day Gold applies, it causes the vocals to sound more expansive. That expansiveness gives it this psychedelic edge to it, and as mentioned before, psychedelia works best as a sense of expanded sense of consciousness. So if we combine all the elements that the production provides: that you’re at the beach, you’re chilled out, and now you’re so relaxed that you’ve reached a point of enlightenment. I mean how much more can a track do for you?

Then when we get to Your Heart is a Clock the beginning guitar that swells up in volume, like when an alarm clock goes off, and when you wake up you finally realize it’s time for work. Although the guitar isn’t that abrasive, it has that forward sense of momentum that thrusts the rest of the song into action. Plus the lyrical content–that we’re all going to die, so we might as well enjoy life while we still can–needs that forward momentum for the track to work. To that effect it does. The drums and fuzzy guitar provides this nice groove, that gives credibility to the lyrics. Because if you’re going to sing a song about living life to it’s fullest, it better sound like you’re living life to your fullest. This is the kind of track, that if you were walking down the street and put on your earbuds, you’d immediately be walking with a swagger–even if you didn’t know what the song was about. It just has that kind of energy.

So next up is Rock Me to Sleep with it’s pitch perfect chord progression, and vocals that sound like a lullaby. It already lives up to it’s name. But it’s what happens next, that changes this from a well written song, to really good rock music. That is the lead guitar. Hearing the chord progression change to this unresolved melody, that’s desperate for a resolution, only for the drums to kick in, brings about this huge amount of anticipation. And like any good showman, Day Gold knows that the build up is just as good as the delivery. Then the lead guitar comes through like a whirlwind, and it’s not the heavy metal speed kind of shredding, that loses all emotion through it being so technical–no, this guitar has got soul. You feel this surge of emotion as this phased out guitar plays out this cool solo. And when I say cool, I mean the cool 90’s kind of guitar solos, back when people wore weird shit, and hung out in coffee houses. That kind of gen X coolness, that millennials associate as being grungy, when in fact it was people doing their own thing, and being sincere. Now I know it’s subjective to say a guitar solo is cool; but if there was anybody out there trying to quantify the coolness of guitar solos, this would be a good place to start.

Finally we end with Give Me the Sun Forever with this reverbed out drum beat that’s just as in your face as the fuzzy guitar tone we all love (because if you don’t like that guitar tone you are insane). With the guitar strumming in the background, and the overall carefree atmosphere this song produces, it’s the kind of track that would be played out when watching the sunset on a beach. You know when you’re at the beach with all your friends, got a bonfire started, and a cooler full of beer–and you sit there looking at the sunset, knowing that it doesn’t get much better than this.

Which is a great way to end the album review. Indie rock albums don’t get much better than this album, and for anybody who loves going to the beach (which is everybody, unless you’re all lying on your tinder profiles) then this is the album for you. For me, it’s a solidification that the artists, and musicians that I met in Pensacola were the real deal. If I were to tell anybody a story of my brief time stationed there, I’d tell them to listen to this album first, and then they’d understand why Pensacola is such a great place to live at.

With the positive vibes, and the great soundtrack for a day out in the sun, this album gets my full recc. Please if you are a human, and like listening to music, check this guy out–you are sure to be amazed.