Thursday, January 31, 2008

Juno Soundtrack

Based upon a solid collection of folk-y songs, the Juno soundtrack is basically a low-key indie-mixtape. Quiet and unassuming, the music moves much in the same fashion as the movie, which if you haven't seen it, you should. Musicians from every era, from Buddy Holly to Cat Power and everything between (both musically and chronologically) are prominently displayed in the 46 minutes of playing time. The eclectic mix is only fitting, because much of the storyline during the movie is interjected with well-written touches of musical anecdotes and references. I would say, other than a custom, original soundtrack, Juno is the best collection since the brilliantly put-together Garden State soundtrack. Although it will forever be hard to beat that record, Juno stands upon the laurels of the featured artists, and does so with pride and excellence.

Cat Power "Sea of Love"


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Matt Costa - Unfamiliar Faces

Matt Costa's second full-length handiwork builds upon his well-developed sense of indie-acoustic understanding that was the footing of Songs We Sing. He wastes no time in boxing your ears with pop, starting off with the fetching and zippy "Mr. Pitiful," which also happens to be the first single from the new album.. The rest of the album returns to his characteristic guitar work, but not without other instruments strewn throughout his melodies. It is very apparent that more production went into this album, as most sophomoric efforts, but the music and lyrics still stand on their own, and when stripped down to their basic mechanisms, would still be believable during a live show. Though stylistically the tone of the album may be notably more progressive than his previous ventures, he does not stray from the roots that he knows, and that combination works well throughout this album. Standout tracks: "Mr. Pitiful," and "Unfamiliar Faces."

Mr. Pitiful


Monday, January 28, 2008

Cold War Kids - Robbers and Cowards

First off, it was brought to my attention that I don't vary the "Rating" enough, and since this blog is essentially the music that I like, it becomes very apparent that there will not be very much variation. So that being said, no more Ratings because if it's here, I probably like it. Onto the important stuff:

Cold War Kids' 2006 release is actually a new catch for me. Over the summer my friend Doug introduced me to this independent and free-thinking album that breathes new life into my music collection. I'm currently not impressed with much of what I've been listening to, and to be honest, this album was kind of a turn-off from what I was normally used to. Branching out into new musical areas, this is definitely a highlight of the oft hard-to-define "indie-blues" genre that I seem to be finding more and more appealing with every listen (much in same fashion as alt-country). Clashing vocals with harmony generate a subtle act that emanates a soulful blues aura, while safeguarding a distinct indie-rock sound, reminiscent of a White Stripes. Varied and interesting, the lyrics revolve around introspection which, when backed with the essential organic instruments, places you in the middle of the album. If you haven't moved beyond your pop-punk, or uniquely hardcore world in a bit, snag this album. Standout Tracks: "Hang Me Up to Dry" and "Saint John."

Hang Me Up to Dry

Link (download both, open up the .zip file and it should all work):

Monday, January 21, 2008

Anti-Flag - For Blood and Empire (and The Terror State)

In theory, Anti-Flag's debut album on a major record label (RCA) could have been destined for failure within hardcore anti-establishment circles. Quite the opposite, the album serves as a testament to the modern generation of punks fighting the good fight against essentially all that is wrong with the world, from within the confines of "the corporation." And they do it to an intense tempo and screaming choruses. Very few bands I've heard can honestly incorporate a blistering punk pace while sustaining some semblance of any type of harmony. Sometimes that is the point, but more often than not, the songs become lost within the album and that leads to drowning the message in sound. Characteristic of Anti-Flag, they avoid this and deliver the music with such passion and acuteness that makes you want to take action. As requested, I also uploaded The Terror State. Standout tracks: "This is the End (For You My Friend)," and "Hymn for the Dead." Rating: 9.5/10

This is the End (for You My Friend)


Anti-Flag - The Terror State:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The New Frontiers - Mending

Evocative of the infinitely more popular Augustana and The Fray, The New Frontiers uphold the indie-side of the genre in such a way that could move them over to the mainstream side very shortly. The entire record is soft-spoken, much more at home on a Sunday afternoon reading a book, than on the next Bruce Willis movie soundtrack. Rustic assonances ensure the songs remain uncluttered from one track to the next, which is often a problem on albums that rely so heavily on basic instrumentation. The production quality is amazing and the mixing is top-notch, highlighting Nathan Pettijohn's vocals, which by itself could hold up many of the tracks. While the instrumentation does not do anything ground-breaking, it does not falter either, doing exactly what a band is supposed to do: support each other's euphonious statements. Overall, this album is well-built, and the independent factor is high, thus adding a few "indie-snob" points to the rating. Take a listen. Standout tracks: "Mirrors," and "Passing On." Rating: 8.9/10

Passing On


Monday, January 14, 2008

Radiohead - In Rainbows

To be frank, I do not know where to even begin. This album is not only completely amazing and conceptually breathtaking, but it also pushes Radiohead into a new direction that leaves you wanting more in the (hopefully very near) future. To do a brief album review would not do this masterpiece justice, so I will break it down into thematic spheres as the music progresses through time. Breaking through the diaphragms, the band prominently sets forth their ambitious, and heavy, reliance on electronics in "15 Step" that will serve as a cornerstone throughout the album. Almost instantly they peddle-step back to a grunge-noise expression during "Bodysnatchers," all the while maintaining Thom Yorke's distinctive and somewhat comforting well-known voice. Between the two tracks, the energy is non-stop and emotions run high, which creates a surprising turn for the next few slower, more ambient songs. The track "All I Need" is one of the few departures back to their roots of slower, idiosyncratic ballads that follow Yorke's hopeful story. The instruments from here on out take on a more prominent role, providing crescendos (especially precussion on "Reckoner") to the backbeat of the electronic drums and synthesizers. The manifestation of an anti-climactic ending pervades through in the haunting, yet beautiful, "Videotape." It is an ending befitting of the an awe-inspiring album, as the piano drifts into a silence that one can only imagine is the band finally receiving their moment of respite after expending their musical genius. I do not want to be one to push a state-of-mind upon the listener, but it does leave you in a position to contemplate, and try to comprehend, what just happened over the past 42 minutes and 34 seconds. The answer usually involves starting the album least it did for me. Standout tracks: "All I Need," and "Recokoner." Rating: 10/10

All I Need


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Radiohead - The Bends

Before I post my review of In Rainbows tomorrow, I figure I should provide a frame of reference by reviewing what I consider to be my favorite Radiohead album (and one my all-time favorite albums period): The Bends. Without question, the album is an experimental grunge fest of litany and thematic elements. Guided by Thom Yorke, the band was already well on the way to stardom after their pivotal single release in 1992, "Creep." Pablo Honey soon followed and Radiohead became an international force of sonic movement, along with their rising counterparts stateside in Nirvana. Personally, I love this album because it is personal and you can hear the emotion inherent in Yorke's vocals, and through the rest of the band's vast instrumental harmonies. Standout tracks: "High & Dry," and "Fake Plastic Trees." Rating: 10/10

Fake Plastic Trees

Link (UPDATED 1/17/2010):

Paramore - Riot!

Yes, I am fully aware that everyone reading this has this album. I also fully expect that my time spent zipping, and uploading this album was for naught. This being said, however, if you've been living under a rock, or you're musically challenged, here is the album. One of my biggest pet peeves is having to agree with the mainstream media...I don't know why, but it irks me. But I do have to agree with everyone's assessment of this album: it is unprecedented, and fully deserving of their Grammy nomination (although I wouldn't consider them "new"). The record is unrelenting on the stylish vocals of the petite Hayley Williams, but don't let her size distract you: her range is nothing short of impressive. I fancy myself a purveyor of music, and I have not been this enamored with a female singer since Gwen (No Doubt era Gwen, that is). Interjecting soft notes and the highest highs with deep lows, Williams is constantly in touch with her supporting band mates in a choreographed union of consonant relief. Standout tracks: "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic," and "Hallelujah." Rating: 10/10



Houston Calls - A Collection of Short Stories

Fret not emo kids, I'm back with a gem of pop-punk wonderment: Houston Calls' first full length debut (albeit from 2005). Aggressive and straightforward, this album relishes in the synthesizer and keyboard, an homage apparent in the likes of their larger predecessors such as Motion City Soundtrack and Reggie and the Full Effect. The tempo flows smoothly between quick melodies and longer songs that speak wonders for the creative writing done by Thomas Keiger, fabricating what can almost be considered (and what he was probably shooting for), short stories, each track being a self-contained "lost love" soliloquy. Standout Tracks: "Bob and Bonnie," and "The Better Part of Valor." Rating: 9/10

Bob and Bonnie