well damn!

Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
April 10, 2009, 3:25 pm
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The last three records Cursive has put out (2000’s Domestica, 2003’s The Ugly Organ, and 2006’s Happy Hollow) easily crack my top 15 all time favourite records. Their recent release Mama I’m Swollen is going to have to try a little harder to crack my top 15 of the year…

Mama I'm SwollenDon’t get me wrong, Mama has some great tracks. “In The Now” is a heavy opener, staying in true Cursive form. “From The Hips”, the album’s first single showcases Cursive’s musical range. I’m not really sure what “Donkeys” is about yet, but it has some clever lyrics.

The album itself gels together fairly smoothly. There are no tracks that stick out like a sore thumb or should have ended up on a b-side. The album is fairly intricate, tracks often refer to other tracks and so on. The themes of the album are quite clear from both a lyrical and musical stand point, but there is something missing. This album is missing the next step. Each album I’ve listened to from Cursive has been unique and displayed a way in which the band has grown, but this album feels like a stasis, any of these tracks could easily be mistaken for belonging to another album.

My friend and I theorize these boys are going to release a spectacle of an album, and this was more of a tie over to keep people interested and assure us Cursive are alive and well.

First listen: 6/10
Flow: 8/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 5/10
Length: 4/5
Album Art: 4/5
Total: 35/50

It’s okay Cursive, I’m still going to listen to it incessantly and wait for it to grow on me

Attack in Black – Years (By One Thousand Fingertips)
March 24, 2009, 4:40 pm
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I have the irrational need to defend this album. So here we go.

I like to think of Attack in Black as a punk band at heart. They put on a stellar show and write great music, and these are the things you need to keep in mind when listening to this album.

Years (By One Thousand Fingertips)I once read somewhere that the fellows weren’t happy with the way Marriage was done (happy or unhappy, Marriage is a fine album indeed) and instead of sulking around and complaining, they did something about it. Less than 4 months later the lo-fi, folky The Curve of the Earth was released. I’ve only heard a few tracks off this album but I’ve heard enough to know that fans of the The Curve of the Earth will appreciate Years.

Years explores an abundance of melodies and and arrangements. The title track sets the tone for the record, it’s simple, but it moves along nicely. To be honest, there isn’t one song on the album I dislike, they’re all quite pleasant and full of investment. For example take the track “Leather Jacket” which closes with simple humming but I think it adds a nice level of personal emotion. The music is full of vivid imagery and the lyrics are clear.

Before you pass judgment on this record, think about how many directions each track could go in once played live, I think that’s one of the most interesting parts of this album. I’m fairly certain unless I end up at an acoustic Attack in Black show, I’m not going to be hearing renditions of the songs so close to the recordings. I like to imagine the different ways they’ll back these songs at Call The Office.

First listen: 7/10
Flow: 9/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 8/10
Length: 4/5
Album Art: 4/5
Total: 40/50

A great album, you just have to stick with it and see these guys live!

Favourite Albums of 2008

I thought I’d write a little entry about 3 of my favourite albums of 2008. For me, there was one clear release that was hands down my absolute favourite of the year, and then there were quite a few other albums that I enjoyed a lot.

Parc AvenuePlants & Animals – Parc Avenue
I was unsure of this album at first, Bye Bye Bye is such a stand out track, and the rest of the album differs so much, it’s a lot more elegant and less anthem-esque. But then I saw P&A at LOLA, and the album immediately clicked with me. There’s so much instrumentation on this album, and some great arrangements. It’s quite incredible that three guys can capture what they recorded with a pocket-ful of musicians, on stage. Every song is a little orchestral movement. It’s a bit post-rock, and a bit neo-classical and I love it.
Favourite track: Mercy

Red, Yellow & BlueBorn Ruffians – Red, Yellow & Blue
This is one catchy album. Born Ruffians create the most complicated sort of simple music. Guitar, bass and a drum, what more do you need? Red, Yellow & Blue was easily the soundtrack to my summer, it’s upbeat, fun, a bit silly and tight. The drumming on this album is unbelievable! My heart is won over by their intricate rhythms, jerky melodies and sporadic harmony. I read somewhere that Luke (the lead singer) tries to model his voice after his opera singing sister, I think it’s quite effective!
Favourite track: Kurt Vonnegut

Into Your LungsHey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs
(and around in your heart and on through your blood) I’m sure I’ve mentioned this album numerous times through out the blog and that’s because it is hands down my favourite release of 2008. Like Parc Avenue, the instrumentation on this album is fabulous and each song is like a little movement, and like Red, Yellow & Blue the melodies are terribly memorable. The best part about this album is it tells a story. Tim Baker has an interesting method of unraveling it, and I’ve spent undefined amounts of time trying to (unsuccessfully) reconstruct it.
I can’t pick one favourite track, but if you were going to listen to just one, I’d say listen to A Thousand Suns

Jack’s Mannequin – The Glass Passenger
December 5, 2008, 8:59 pm
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Three years ago, Andrew McMahon, under the moniker Jack’s Mannequin released his solo debut, Everything in Transit, as an enthusiastic fan of Something Corporate I was more than excited. Unfortunately, at the time McMahon was diagnosed with Leukemia and was left to fight for his life instead of promoting his masterpiece.

The Glass PassengerI have spent the past 3 years anticipating this album. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that his next release would be heavily influenced by his bout with leukemia. This is a fan’s dream album.

I must admit, I was not a fan of this album the first…3 or 4 times I listened to it. McMahon is such a great composer and I was left thinking, “What the hell is this?”. While I was expecting anger a la If U C Jordan, McMahon gave me an album about fighting for your life a la Bruised. But I still can’t help but be slightly disappointed with the writing on this album. Sure there are some great tracks on this album, but together, they lack the cohesion this album needs.

However Crashin’ is a great opener, it kicks the record off with the lines “I wanna hear some music/Now that they’re driving us all underground”. Swim is the fight for you life song, where McMahon gives the listener a taste of what he went through. Unfortunately I find that American Love is a bit of a stick out track…not in a good way. It’s one of the many reasons the album isn’t “cohesive”. Sure it’s a great song…but it doesn’t really fit into that spot on the album, and I’m not really sure if it even fits into the album at all.

Towards the end of the album, it’s easy to see why The Resolution was released as the album’s single, although sometimes I think the transition going from the previous song into this one is a bit off. The “last” track Caves would be a powerful ending note, leaving the listener with lines like “As far as I can see/Walls are caving in/Doors got locked for sure/But I see these doors have keys”. Except a bonus track Miss California is included at the end, which like American Love doesn’t quite fit the album, but I guess can be overlooked since it’s a bonus track…right?

I’m hard on the album, because I love Andrew McMahon, I swear.

First listen: 6/10
Flow: 6/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 6/10
Length: 4/5
Album Art: 4/5
Total: 34/50

C+/B- I can’t decide whether to make this a C+ or B-, so I give it both!
Overall, not a bad album, but not amazing either.

Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes
November 20, 2008, 1:35 am
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I don’t think that it’s been established, but I’m a huge fan of Saddle Creek Records. They put out music by a plethora of great bands and have created a great musical community. Recently Saddle Creek has started signing artists outside of Omaha, including quite a few up and coming Canadian artists, like Tokyo Police Club and Land of Talk

Land of Talk I’ll admit that it took a few listens to get into this record, but now I’m knee deep. Elizabeth Powell does a great job of fitting her voice in with her music. Her voice evokes the emotions that she’s trying to express in her songs, and it creates a great feeling for the album on the whole. My one qualm? Annunciation. It’s probably the pretentious choir brat in me, but there are times when I think “What on earth is she singing about?”, lucky for her as I mentioned, her voice is very evocative. Oh and one more small complaint. Can we get actual liner notes, with lyrics? Though, this is more of a rant for albums on a whole as of late.

Some Are Lakes starts with the steady drum driven Yuppy Flu. I’m not sure if this is actually in a minor key (heck, the majority of this album might be in a minor key), but there are enough chromatic runs to convince me. The next track, Death by Fire has one of my (many) favourite lyric deliveries off of this record, “One poison, two poison, three boys”, so dark but meaningful. I’ve also mentioned my affinity for Powell’s melodies. These are prevalent in the title track, Some Are Lakes and the closer Troubled, easily my favourite song on the album. Don’t let the sweet melodies mislead you, this band knows how to rock out, just listen to Corner Phone and you too will be convinced.

First listen: 7/10
Flow: 8/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 9/10
Length: 5/5
Album Art: 4/5
Total: 41/50

Thanks for living up to my expectations Saddle Creek

Arkells – Jackson Square
November 18, 2008, 1:50 am
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arkells_jacksonsquare_sqaure_medThe Arkells are a young band fresh out of Hamilton, Ontario, recently signed to Dine Alone Records. Jackson Square, the group’s debut full length features a great range songs. It barely took one listen to get into this record. With catchy riffs like the ones found in The Ballad of Hugo Chavez and rock anthems like Oh, The Boss Is Coming!, who can blame me? The first time I’d heard of the Arkells, I immediately thought Constantines and if you’ve heard the version of Oh, The Boss Is Coming! off of their EP Deadlines you’d hear why. The riff sounds heavily influenced by opening of Nighttime/Anytime, however with the release of Jackson Square the quintet have marked it their own. Yet I still can’t decide which version of the song I enjoy better!

Other standout tracks on the album include Deadlines, Champagne Socialist, Tragic Flaw and John Lennon. Not that the other tracks are a bore but these are a few of my favourites, and note how many of them there are.

All in all, a solid debut from a young band.

First listen: 9/10
Flow: 7/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 9/10
Length: 4/5
Album Art: 5/5
Total: 42/50


Music I Bought That I Like
November 12, 2008, 1:59 am
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I have the sudden urge to blog about music, but I don’t really have the time so here is a short list of music I’ve recently bought and become acquainted with:

Arkells – Jackson Square
I’ve only given this one a few listens, but I love it. They’ve got this great blue-collar punk sound going on, and they put on a mean live show. This is a great debut from a fairly young band.

Hey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs
(and around in your heart and on through your blood). Have I mentioned I’m a huge sucker for concept albums? This one is fantastic, I can’t get enough of it. The instrumentation itself is outstanding and the lyrics are quite thought provoking. Easily one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes
I picked this one up because LoT are Saddle Creek’s latest Canadian pick up. It took a few listens but I’m just getting into it. I love Elizabeth Powell’s voice, it’s so modest and she writes the most beautiful melodies.

Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell
May 8, 2008, 1:36 pm
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I’ll admit, I didn’t jump on the TPC wagon until recently. I hadn’t heard of them until Saddle Creek started raving about this hip new band from Canada in their August 07 newsletter, but the very fact that Saddle Creek had signed a quartet of Canadians was intriguing enough.

So here we are. Full of catchy riffs, upbeat melodies and uplifting lyrics, Elephant Shell isn’t an album I would expect from Saddle Creek, but it’s one I welcome with open arms (perhaps I’ve been blinded by the abundance of Cursive in my less than impressive collection).

Opener “Centennial” is like a nice walk in the park and a smooth way to ease into the record. However the album proceeds to quickly build up to the rhythm induced “Juno” and melody infused “Tessellate”. With the record peaking at track 5, one can’t help but be slightly disappointed with such a fast giveaway. As expected, the album recesses, but we are briefly revived with the upbeat and infectious “Your English is Good”. Unfortunately we are forced to “Listen to the Math” which is as boring as it sounds (says the Math major). Perhaps had it not followed “Your English is Good” it would have been a much more enjoyable track. Kind of reminds you of high school no? Finally, I can’t decide whether “The Baskervilles” is a good enough ending. There’s something about it that just doesn’t yell conclusion to me. But if you account for the remixes, “The Baskervilles” isn’t exactly the conclusion I was looking for anyway.

First listen: 8/10
Flow:    7/10
Individual Songs: 8/10
Discography: 7/10
Length: 3/5
Album Art: 5/5
Total: 38/50

All in all, a great album, on the short side, but it’s good enough for my musically induced ADD.