Against Me! just doesn’t give a s*#!

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , on September 7, 2010 by CruzerWpg

Against Me! took alot of flak when they released their major label debut New Wave in 2007.  The album was a noticeable departure from the rough DIY recording style of their earlier work, yet held on to the political and social musings of previous outings.  While Spin magazine called it “Album of the Year”,  frontman Tom Gabel took exception to the so-called “fans” who lashed out in anger at the band’s growth and change of direction: 

“I find it completely frustrating and off-putting and it turns me off of the punk scene really because people are very closed minded.”

Gabel isn’t standing down from his comments on the band’s new disc White Crosses.   The lead single “I was a Teenage Anarchist” laments on the falls of the anarchy scene and the misshapen politics and revoultions it embraces.  It’s fitting, however, that by taking a staunch very un-mainstream stance in the eyes of his old-school followers, Gabel closly follows the same ideals that the group he is trying to distance himself from holds.

Immediately following “Teenage Anarchist”, the Springsteen-esque “Because of the Shame” is another stand-out track on the album.  The lyrics are honest and the emotion runs high as Gabel rasps and growls about a painful meeting at a friend’s funeral.  The friend in reference, interestingly enough, is the same subject of Againt Me!’s previous single “Thrash Unreal”  The shame in question, turns out to be that very song. 

 “Suffucation” evokes memories of Against Me!’s earlier work, it’s ready for crowd shout-backs and urges fists in the air.  “Ache with Me” proves Against Me! cannot be pigeonholed.  At the end of the day, it’s all the band wants to prove.  They’ve shown they can write folk-punk songs as good as the next guy.  They’ve proven their punk-rock stylings.  It’s time to move on to the next project.  White Crosses isn’t quite there, but it’s pretty damn close.

 

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BT- These Hopeful Machines Review

Posted in Electronica with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2010 by CruzerWpg

I first listened to These Hopeful Machines the day the album was released. That was a couple of weeks back, yet I held off writing about it till now.  The reason being,  the singles that were released prior to the album’s release had me salivating at the thought of new music from Brian Transeau, the dual disc album failed to impress me on first listen.  I really enjoyed the singles, “Suddenly” and “Every Other Way”.  They are the two best songs on the album, in my opinion.  It is this realization: that I had already heard the best the album had to offer before it’s release, that turned me off.

So today, I listened to the album again, hopefully with fresh ears.   “Suddenly” is still a killer track.  Glitchy beats, soaring guitars and mutilated vocals.  It is fresh exciting music.   “The Emergency”,  the second track on the first disc, turned me off.  It is too generic and too repeative.  BT is a pioneer.  This song is not the work of a pioneer.  “Every Other Way”, on the other hand, is an epic track.  The eleven minute song was built for a movie soundtrack, which may not be an outlandish remark considering BT’s work on film scores.  JES who BT collaborates with on “Every Other Way” and the following “The Light in Things”, has an amazing voice.  The element her vocals bring elavate the two songs.   “The Rose of Jericho” is this album’s “Flaming June” but the comparision is really unfair.  The original BT standout track is hardly touchable.  “Forget Me” is well, forgettable. 

Disc two starts off slower than the first disc with a collaboration with vocalist Kristy Hawkshaw, who BT has worked with on previous albums.  Her work on ‘Running Down the Way up” off BT’s Movement in Still Life was my favorite track from that album, so I had high expectations.  I didn’t remember anything great from the first listen, but on the second run I was drawn into the song alot more.  The song would not sound out of place on a Tiesto album.  “Love Can Kill You” and “Always” don’t offer much in the way of outstanding material, but “Le Nocturne de Lumière” (which my rough translation gives me Light in Darkness) evokes memories of BT’s  instrumental disc This Binary Universe.  ‘The Ghost in You”, a cover of The Psychdelic Furs is a good album closer, which wouldn’t sound out of place on BT’s Emotional Technology album.

By the time I had listened to the album again, I feel as though I could come to grips with my feelings.  I adore BT.  Brian Transeau is my favorite electronica artist, and someone who really fits the bill of an “artist”.  Throughout his work, I have felt as though he has been on the cusp of new sounds.  These Hopeful Machines unfortunately is a mixture of elements from his past work, with the exception of a few select tracks.  I like the sounds, but they don’t give me the same chill I felt when I listened to his previous work the first time.

Jimmy Eat World: Band of the Decade?

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by CruzerWpg

I recently listened to the remastered version of Clarity, the band’s critically acclaimed breakthrough album, which is declared by many to be the definition of real emo.  Real emo.  Not the guy-liner, screaming vocals, and general “I hate my life” mall emo of today, but heart-on-my-sleeve, down to earth emotional rock.  The music blew me away.  I forgot how good this album really was.  Every song weaves into the next within a lush musical environment and the lyrics actually begged to be listened to.  To prove it’s worth, the album, orginally released in 1999, was re-released in 2007, as well as released as a live album based on the group’s tour of the entire album.

It got me to thinking.   Jimmy Eat World, a four-peice alternative rock band from Meza, Arizona, has released a consistantly good and growth-filled album with each outing.  The Jimmy Eat World of the nineties sounds nothing like the Jimmy Eat World of present, but is still entrancing in its own way.  As well, each song on pretty much each album deserves to be there.  I started thinking about other bands that I could say the same thing about.  There are very few, and certainly not many with a catalog as large as Jimmy Eat World’s.   

With Clarity ushering in the new mellenium, the band released Bleed American in 2001 (re-named after the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks to Jimmy Eat World).  The album notched up the tempo on most of the tracks and proved that the band could create a mean hook-laden pop-rock song.  “The Middle” caught on with radio-listeners the world over and pushed the band into mainstream success, 3 albums after their first outing.  Which leads me to one of my peeves about the band: many judge JEW by “The Middle”, as this is the only song that comes to mind when they hear the band’s name.  The song, however, does not accurately portray the band’s sound.  It is simplistic up-temo pop-punk track whereas Jimmy Eat World’s signiture sound, I feel, is a much more slow burner rocker, characterized by deep personal lyrics.  But I digress, “The Middle” still rocks.

The rest of the 2000’s brought Futures (2004) and Chase this Light (2007).  The two albums grow on the band’s already easily accesible sound.  It’s amazing that these hook filled, middle of the road rock albums by a band that garnered such indie cred with Clarity are produced with the same feeling, attention, and love.  Plus, the original indie fans don’t accuse the band of “selling out”, as they should not.  Jimmy Eat World has earned their right to play their music.  This wide appeal is one of the things I pondered as I listened to their music again this past week.  From the 3 minute pop-rock ditty of “The Middle”, to the 7 minute powerful plea of “23”.  From the indie kids, to the mall kids, to their older fanbase that remembers the Static Prevails days.  Jimmy Eat World delivers.

Jimmy Eat World is real music.  Not overproduced, not overwritten, not overthought.  I  don’t believe many other bands have brought as many smile-inducing, toe-tapping, yet intelligent songs to the masses as this band has in the last 10 years. 

 Jimmy Eat World for Band of the Decade.  With talk of a new album in 2010, I hope it is a sign that we will see many many more years of entertainment from this band.  In the mean time, I take comfort in the fact that when lead singer Jim Adkins croons  “they’ll say, Lord give me the chance to shake that hand,” that I already have.

30 Seconds to Mars – This is War. Or is it?

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , on January 6, 2010 by CruzerWpg

When I pressed play on my iPod after I had loaded This is War onto it, I was blown away .  Jared Leto’s voice murmered softly on the opening track ‘Escape’ and all of the sudden a chorus of people-seemingly a huge stadium full of people-proclaimed “This is War!”  Wow.  It was a really powerful introduction.  An introduction  that sustains itself through the first half of the disc, but ultimately loses steam.  

The following track, ‘Night and the Hunter’ is an interesting electronic layered piece that sounds nice, but has no semblance of a interesting hook.  The first single, ‘Kings and Queens’, which I liked the first time I heard it, fits nicely on the disc, along with the title track, ‘This is War’.  The band takes a promising acoustic turn on ‘100 suns’, one that  is over way too soon when it breaks into the dark, moody track, ‘Hurricane’.  

Originally, 30STM planned a cameo by Kanye West’s on ‘Hurricane’, but it was removed in the final release.  I listened to West’s version, and as much as I dislike West and the thought of him adding anything to Leto and Co, it worked.  I didn’t hate it.  Unfortunatly, the disc dies at the midway point.  What follows is an agonizing mixmatch of overused crowd vocals and cliche lyrics.  I feel This is War is a step in the right direction for 30 Seconds to Mars. But unlike their album cover that features over 2000 different versions of fans faces printed on it, the music contained within it not diverse enough to solicit repeat listens.

2009 in Autotune

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 31, 2009 by CruzerWpg

 Check out the most famous sound clips of 2009…in Autotune!  T-Pain would be proud.

Top 5 Albums of 2009

Posted in Rock/Alternative with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by CruzerWpg

I know it is not quite the end of the year yet, but in the spirit of the year wrapping up, and snow finally falling, I am listing my picks for the top 5 albums of the year.  There is no order of preference…almost.

1. Brand New- Daisy
Probably my favorite album of the year.  Brand New never makes the same album twice, and this release proves it.  With a crazy mix of deep-south guitar, hollow shouting vocals, and an overall recorded in the basement feel, this album was, in my opinion, the most impressive release of the year.

2. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
More polished than their first release, Swoon delivers a near perfect sequence of interlocking songs that are perfect for listening at night.  The fuzzy shoe-gaze guitar work is magnificent and the androgynous vocals are smooth and relaxing.  This release sounds like nothing else this year.

3. Metric – Fantasies
This album blows their previous efforts out of the water.  Metric dropped the rough feel of their older work in favour of a fuzzy more polished sound that borders the line between mainstream and indie.  The result is a group of songs that have enormous appeal,  resounding  just as well on the radio as on hipsters ipods.

4. Placebo – Battle for the Sun
Brian Molko didnt reinvent his band for this release.  He simply balanced out the electronic elements of his band’s previous album Meds with the rock vibe that brought the band success in the late ninties.  The standout tracks, ‘For What it’s Worth’ and ‘Speak in Tongues’ are worth the price of the album alone.

5. OneRepublic – Waking Up
Timbaland may have brought OneRepublic into the public eye with the inclusion of his re-working of the band’s hit ‘Apoligize’ on  his Shock Value album, but Waking Up proves that the Los Angeles band can get by just fine on their own.  It’s a mellow feel-good disc, with upbeat positive songs.  Give a listen to the first single ‘All the Right Moves’ to get an idea of just how much these guys can rock, without actually rocking.

Honorable Mentions: Green Day – 21’st Century Breakdown, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz, Billy Talent- III

Off topic – My Favorite Horror Flicks

Posted in Film with tags , , , on October 14, 2009 by CruzerWpg

I know this is a music blog, but in the spirit of it almost being Halloween, and with the brilliantly marketed social network experiment Paranormal Activity being released wide this weekend, I figured it was a good time to take a look at some of my favorite horror films.

I like to consider myself a fan of modern horror film.  I don’t care much for the classics.  And while that statement may throw any expertise on the subject out the window, older horror movies just don’t do it for me.  While they may have been effective in their day, they simply come off as cheesy and funny now; they’ve unfortunately lost their edge.  In their time Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers may have scared those witnessing their rampages, I was too young to experience them.

That said, here is the list of my top ten favorite (read: effective) horror films:

200px-Theringpostere1. The Ring (2002)
While my list does not take any ranking order, this one is at the top for a reason.  This is my favorite horror film, hands down.  The atmosphere is super creepy and the cinematography is beautiful yet haunting at the same time.  The story, which was lifted from the Japanese movie, Ringu, which in turn was based on a novel, draws the viewer in and holds them tight.  Plus, it is one of the few films of the ‘Asian horror remake’ period that is actual better than it’s original.  Gore Verbinski did a steller job in bringing the story of a haunted video tape to American audiences.

 

200px-Blair_Witch_Project2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
A marketing marvel, this tiny indie film caused a stir when it made over 2 million dollars off its tiny budget back in the late ninties.  It was one of the first movies to use viral marketing and the Internet to introduce it to audiences, and the end-product was brilliant as well.  It really delivers.  Of course many critics of the film complain that nothing really happens in the film and that the ending is a let-down.  But those same people can’t deny that they were freaked out for the ninety minutes leading up to “nothing”.  Plus, you have to admit you almost believed it was real when it first came out.  It was that good. 

 

200px-The_Eye_film3. The Eye (2002)
The Hong Kong movie directed by the Pang Brothers, not the new one starring Jessica Alba.  The remake was a dud, but this orginal features some very effective scares and use of sound to create an altogether frightening film experience.  Not too mention a very cool title sequence.  Skip the American version and watch this awesome film about an eye transplant gone awry.

 

 

200px-Rec_poster4. REC (2007)
Released in Spain and later on DVD in North America, this film uses a first person camera view to showcase its scares.  When a TV reporter shadowing a fire department for the night tags along to a mysterious call at an apartment building, all hell breaks loose.  The movie features excellent acting, alludes to biological and medical outbreaks, and makes effective use of its unique perspective.  The American remake, Quarentine, is almost a shot-for-shot remake and is also an excellent film.  I recommend either film.  But if subtitles don’t bother you, watch the original.

 

twenty_eight_weeks_later25. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
This is the rare case when a sequel is better than the orginal.  Danny Boyle directed the first movie, 28 Days Later, and it was a good zombie flick.  But the sequel ramps up the action and craziness, all without loosing any of the suspense and character development.  The British film, which takes place in an abandoned London, has amazing views of empty city streets and chilling images of super-fast zombies (aka rage infected victims) chasing the few inhabitants left in this post apocalyptic nightmare.  Plus, the last scene hints at a third chapter in which the virus has managed to cross the English Channel.

ju-on6. Ju-on (2000)
This popular movie, which is already featured on many top horror lists, was originally released in Japan directly to DVD.  It’s strange considering the effect it has had on Asian cinema and its enormous amount of remakes and sequels.  The images in the first film are so startling that the choppy plot can be forgiven.  Forget about the other films in this franchise, the one that started it all will have you squirming in your seat.  Dread is the one word that describes the experience of watching this movie.

 

200px-Saw_poster7. Saw (2004)
The Saw films are sure to the the new mellinium’s version of Friday the 13th and its high amount of sub-par sequels, but this first film stands out on its own.  Filmed in only 18 days, and premiered at Sundance, Saw saw the start of the “torture horror” fad that is only now starting to wean.  The premise was brilliant: 2 men awake in a dark filthy room with a dead body, each chained to one wall, and neither knowing how they got there.  The twist ending worked the first time you saw it, and regardless of the franchise’s recycling each Halloween, you still remember talking with your friends about that cool movie you “saw” back in 2004.

200px-Strangersposter8. The Strangers (2008)
The newest movie on my list makes it on the top 1o because of the its theme: What if a stranger came to your house late at night, broke in, and attacked you.  It’s a creepy thought.  And one that resonates with everyone.  The film didn’t have a whiff of a plot and it didn’t need one.  As the “Stangers” say in the movie when asked why they are doing this to the hapless victims: “because you were home.”

 

shining29. The Shining (1980)
Now to the oldest movie on my list, and one that I did not obviously see when it was first released, The Shining.  Based on the creepy novel by Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic interpretation of the story could be seen as more of a psycological thriller than a horror film.  Yet, the idea of being alone in a large empty hotel with your family works in much the same way it did in the book.  That isolation is scary, and the results that play out in this film are just as spooky.  Not to mention Jack’s “Here’s Johnny!”

 

200px-Shutterposter10. Shutter (2004)
Another victim of a terrible American remake, the orginal Thai film, Shutter, is another great example of the Asian horror at it’s best.  Creepy dead girl? Check.  Ghost story? Check.  Technology used to discover creepy dead girl and solve ghost story?  Check.  Again, skip the shoddy remake and check out the orginal.  The ending will send chills down your back, literally.

 
Well, thats my take.  As you can see, I like my horror international.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if the aforemetioned Paranormal Activity takes a spot on this list after I see it.  Shot for $15,000 dollars, the small film is being haralded as the “scariest movie since The Blair Witch Project, and it uses the same ‘caught on tape’ premise as well, except this time, the footage reveals what is in your house while you sleep.  Sounds creepy.  Check out the trailer below: