Foo Fighters – Wasting Light Review

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by CruzerWpg

Recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage, Wasting Light is the seventh studio album from the Foo Fighters and according to the band’s front man, their “heaviest album yet.” While I might not buy into the “heaviest and hardest” claim, it is most definitely their most raw. In an industry where many rock bands tend to become more produced over time, the realization that a group who has been recording albums for over 15 years, being played on MTV and selling out stadiums can still dig in and create an organic, entirely analogue release speaks volumes to their talent and overall grasp of their passion.

Wasting Light gets off to a noisy start, with Grohl growling “these are my famous last words” before kicking into a thunderous guitar riff that retains the band’s signature melodic trim. The first single “Rope” and the following “Dear Rosemary” are classic Foo Fighters tracks that welcome old listeners to the album. What follows is what I assume Grohl was talking about when alluded to the band’s heaviest work thus far; “White Limo.” The vocals cannot be deciphered, the drums and licks fly by at a rapid pace, yet it’s strongly melodic, even amongst Grohl’s shrieks and screams. Later in the track list, the slow burner “I Should Have Know,” which features Grohl’s former Nirvana band-mate, Krist Novoselic, continues the anti-formulaic vibe that enhances the record.

Overall, the album contains little filler with “Arlandria,” “These Days,” “Back and Forth” and the album closer “Walk” urging heads to nod and hands to start air-strumming. In what is a true testament to the power of the songs on Wasting Light, although the album was recorded in a garage, I can imagine it would pack much of the same punch streaming out of an arena’s massive speaker system.

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City and Colour – Little Hell Review

Posted in Indie Rock, Rock/Alternative, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 17, 2011 by CruzerWpg

With Alexisonfire splitting up earlier this year, it seems as though Dallas Green’s side project, City and Colour, has now become his full time gig. While I enjoyed much of what Alexisonfire brought to the table, Green was always the part of the equation that stood out for me. With “Little Hell” offering more of a “band sound” than his previous acoustic-tinged releases, I have no complaints what-so-ever about both Green’s and the band’s decision to part ways.

“Little Hell” sees Green joined by Daniel Romano of Attack in Black, Dylan Green and Scott Remila of Raising the Fawn, Nick Skalkos of The Miniatures, Misha Bower of Bruce Peninsula and Anna Jarvis and Jordan Mitchell of The Rest. The result is a fuller, lusher sound that other City and Colour outings. The title track “Fragile Bird” and “Weightless” are great examples of this. The album also sounds less produced, but the imperfections and the squeal of guitar string only add to the album’s sorrowful musical and lyrical landscape. Case in point, the track “The Grand Optimist” does not convey any of the feeling its title suggests.

Overall, the album acts as a continuing step in City and Colour’s releases. While “Bring Me Your Love” built on “Sometimes” acoustic guitar driven sound with folk influenced banjos, harmonicas and drums, “Little Hell” takes it one step further by offering the listener an even more layered recording.

Catch City and Colour at the Burton Cummings Theatre on February 3rd, 2012.

I’m Back – with a lot of catching up to do

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2011 by CruzerWpg

I realize it has been over a year since I last updated this blog. That will no longer be acceptable, starting immediately. Over the last month, I have slowly been putting together a new website that focuses on freelance writing services (copy, media kits, social media, etc). Part of putting together this new online presence includes keeping a well-updated blog. While I realize that comment makes it sound like maintaining this blog can be a hassle, it is simply not the truth. Posting articles to this blog is actually quite fun and I am disappointed that I fell out of the habit of doing so.

There were a lot of great music releases over the last year and I’m going to get right down to business, posting as many of them as can, as well as writing the odd off-topic post. Great to be back!

What is the Loudness War?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 28, 2010 by CruzerWpg

The Loudness War.  It’s the title of my blog, but it is also a significant phenomenon of the recording industry.  You can learn more by clicking on “About this Blog”  to the left, but essentially The Loudness War is the music industry’s tendency to record, produce, and broadcast music at progressively increasing levels of loudness to attempt to create a sound that stands out from others.  Does it work?  Maybe.  But I think it’s hurting the art of music more than anything.  We’re missing out on sounds, sounds that play an integral part to the recording and harbour emotional connections to any certain song.

Steven Luscher of the Vancouver band “Lakefield” writes a compelling essay on the effects of The Loudness War and it’s destruction of the dynamic range of a recording.  He makes an interesting anology:

The race to “loud” has resulted in a loss of something called dynamic range in audio recordings. Dynamic range is a hallmark of a quality recording in much the same way that it’s a centrepiece of music composition, arrangement, and performance. To explain why this characteristic is so important to music lovers, let’s go back to your grade school classroom. Imagine that the highest that a student can raise their hand represents the loudest sound on a recording, and that the level of their shoulder represents the quietest sound.

Remember that restrained, mysterious kid in your class? Imagine that he’s the only one around who can bend his arm at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. The teacher asks the class to comment on the events surrounding the beatification of Joan of Arc in 1909, and he readies an answer consisting of an obtuse reference to the birth of Leo Fender. His hand, at rest on his shoulder, shoots high into the air, folded into the sign of the horns. As his hand shot into the air, it travelled a great distance and achieved great airspeed before snapping to a halt at the end of his reach. Making this powerful and sudden gesture required him to use the full range of motion afforded to his arm by his shoulder, elbow, and wrist. It had impact, and it got him noticed.

Now, let’s consider another one of your other classmates – the teacher’s son. He’s leaning back in his chair trying to play it cool, with his arms behind his head, bent at the elbow. The spectre of favoritism looms large and heavy on his horizon; caught between wanting to impress his parent, and wanting to avoid the ire of his classmates, he sits on his answers for a requisite 5 seconds before shooting his hand into the air. Rotating at the elbow only, he raises his hand with only half the fervor of the first kid.

That annoying keener kid in the front row has had his arm up this entire time, letting his hand flop down at the wrist like a wet noodle between questions, ready to answer the next one as soon as it leaves the teacher’s lips. The problem with his approach is that so little motion happens between the wet noodle position and the five-fingers-spread-like-a-starfish position that it barely commands any attention at all.

As they raise their hands, each one of these kids’ hands reach the same height, but they move through more or less of their available range of motion to get there. The greater the distance that their hands travel, the more emotion, surprise, intent, and impact they convey.

Here is where the analogy circles back to recordings of music; the range of motion of a kid’s arm, from low to high, is like the dynamic range of an audio recording, from quiet to loud. Recordings that feature great distances between quiet and loud have the potential to convey a maximum of emotion, surprise, intent, and impact, as only a mysterious, devil horn pumping young scholar can. Recordings with little or no distance between the quietest sound and the loudest sound end up playing like a wet noodle. Critics call this phenomenon “wimpy loud sound.”

You can read the entire essay on his band’s website at http://lakefieldmusic.com/the-loudness-war-stops-here-high-dynamic-range-audio-recordings as well as listen to their latest album “Sounds from the Treeline” which as you may have guessed, makes excellent use of dynamic range.  It was engineered by Bob Katz, the author of “Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science.”

Off Topic – Let Me In

Posted in Film, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 24, 2010 by CruzerWpg

One of my favorite movie genres is horror.  Not cheap gimicky horror, but insightful, artful and allegory-filled horror.  The genre is ripe for commentary on humankind and the world we live in.  At this time, I find that Europe and Asia are currently doing horror films best.  North America has some catching up to do.  Opening next week is a remake of a great little Swedish horror flick called “Let the Right One In.”  The American remake reduces the title to “Let Me In.” 

To simplify the plot – its a vampire movie.  Wait! Come back!  Its good, I swear!  The plot device that makes one of the main charecters a vampire is used to delve deep into human phycology.  The charecters are mostly childen, yet they don’t act like children.  A vampire doesn’t age on the outside either.

I never have high hopes for remakes.  The early reviews for this one, however, seem promising.  But, I have been let down so many times before.  The atmosphere, the subtle naunces and the charecters really elevated the original movie and I can only hope that these elements are not lost on North American audiences.  The new trailer bothers me, as it paints the film as a scary movie.  “Let the Right One In” was not scary, it was unsettling.  Yet, it was also quite nice.  Both trailers are posted below.  Check them out.

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns Review

Posted in Electronica, Rap/Hip-Hop, Rock/Alternative with tags , , , on September 23, 2010 by CruzerWpg

“A Thousand Suns” is a big bold album for Linkin Park.  It closely follows the nuclear warfare theme of 2007’s “Minutes to Midnight,” but correctly loses the U2 melodies and sonics that plagued the previous release.  This is Linkin Park at it’s finest;  without convention and without restraint.   However,  if you listen to the first single, “The Catalyst,” or any other track of the album, you might not hear it.  The album is just that, an album.  It is not a collection of songs.  It is one big peice of music – something that LP recognizes, and plans to release the album on iTunes as one track, 47 minutes and 56 seconds long.

“A Thousand Suns” is made up of 15 tracks, six of which are are under three minutes long and comprised of intrumental interludes or sound clips.  Recordings of Martin Luther King and atomic bomb developer  J. Robert Oppenheimer rise seamlessly amidst the layers of organic and technology-inspired sounds.  The most jarring moment of the album features a clean crisp recording of one of King’s emotionally-charged speeches.   His words are repeated, eventually being distorted until the emotion is gone -replaced by metallic screeching.  It begs the question: Do King’s words ring true as they once did, or have we (technology) replayed them and distorted them until the are monotonous and irrellevant?  Its a fair question, and a very subtle yet smart way of exploring the idea.

It is hard to review the album song by song, as each track plays a part in the overall picture, however standouts include ‘Burning in the Sky,’ ‘When They Come for Me,’ ‘Wretches and Kings’ and ‘The Catalyst.’  Even though the album is a collection of sounds and ideas, the noise speaks universally.  There are tribal beats, heart-shuddering basslines, raw rap verses, quiet acoustic moments and ear-shattering guitars and shouting.  It seems Linkin Park has made a album that transverses continents, cultures, and genres.  It’s fitting.  The scare of nuclear warfare knows no boundries, so neither does this piece of commentary and art. 

On a side note, forums and YouTube comments abound about how the band has lost it’s edge;  that they’ve gone soft.  It’s true that Linkin Park sounds nothing like the rap/rock band of ten years ago.  If they did, nobody would care.  Although, I challenge anyone to listen to the track “Wretches and Kings” off the new album and tell me it’s not hard enough for them.

Bruno Mars – A Breath of Fresh Air

Posted in Pop with tags , , on September 7, 2010 by CruzerWpg

When you turn on the radio these days, there are not a whole lot of love songs that are really “love songs.”  Many ballads tend to fall into the “she/he left me” catagory, and the more upbeat ones tend to comment on a girl’s ass more than anything else.  Bruno Mars, aka Peter Hernandez, a Hawaiian born singer-songwriter is embracing a more redeeming approach to the love song, at least as far as mainstream pop goes.  His hit “Just the Way You Are” compliments a girl’s attributes without resorting to dirty double-entendres, and his collaberation on B.o.b’s “Nothing On You” praises his love interest without being tongue-in-cheek.  Its a breath of fresh air.  Yeah, he penned Flo Rida’s “Right Round.”  But we’ll forgive him for that.