best of 2011 (initial rough draft)

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albums I liked: (album name – artist name)

  • Ritual - White Lies
  • Kaputt - Destroyer
  • No More Idols - Chase & Status
  • Zonoscope - Cut Copy
  • Collapse into Now - R.E.M.
  • Megalithic Symphony - Awolnation
  • So Beautiful or So What - Paul Simon
  • Nine Types of Light - TV on the Radio
  • The Fall - Gorillaz
  • Destroyed - Moby
  • Torches - Foster the People
  • Codes and Keys - Death Cab for Cutie
  • Ritual Union - Little Dragon
  • Das Pop – The Game
  • Watch the Throne - Jay-Z & Kanye West
  • Making Mirrors - Gotye
  • The Less You Know, the Better - DJ Shadow
  • Metals - Feist
  • Audio, Video, Disco - Justice

albums I might’ve liked if I listened to them more:

  • Modern Ruin – Covenant
  • Vices & Virtues - Panic! at the Disco
  • The Future is Medieval - Kaiser Chiefs
  • Join Us - They Might Be Giants
  • Killer Sounds - Hard-Fi
  • Relax - Das Racist
  • Velociraptor! - Kasabian
  • Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming - M83
  • Camp - Childish Gambino

Insane Clown Posse – Bang! Pow! Boom! – free associating

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Among the many aspects of ICP that I enjoy, their tendency to ramble off into a list of related items, one after another, seems worthy of mention. It’s particularly pervasive in Bang! Pow! Boom! – let’s take a look at my favorite track off the album: Fonz Pond

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We’re running along, learning about consequences of navigating cursed locales (fight for air!) when Violent Jay recites: (at 1:53)

  1. missing children
  2. swampy depths
  3. mysteries are secrets kept
  4. Staring owls
  5. snakes
  6. frogs
  7. leeches living off hollow logs

Next, another standout track: Vultures

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Starting at 1:47, the boys rattle off:

  1. lizards
  2. bugs
  3. flies
  4. mosquitoes
  5. hookers with drugs
  6. dirty-ass needles
  7. alley way cats
  8. possums
  9. rats
  10. killers with gats (attack you with bats)

There are a few reasons I find these lists intriguing. It establishes an interesting sort of environment for the song to place in, populated by a familiar cast of genre-appropriate flora and fauna. A vocabulary is being established, a laundry list of familiars and haunts that dark carnival minions can add to their deck of tricks. It highlights the simple (nearing children’s rhyme territory) structure and flow of the lyrics. As usual, I’m not sure if ICP knows what they’re doing, but I hope it’s all intentional.

The next example is too easy: Miracles

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First up, at :30

  1. the mountains
  2. trees
  3. the seven seas
  4. everything chilling underwater
  5. hot lava
  6. snow
  7. rain
  8. fog
  9. long neck giraffes
  10. pet cats
  11. dogs

And then at :50

  1. the sun
  2. the moon
  3. Mars
  4. the Milky Way
  5. fucking shooting stars
  6. UFOs
  7. a river
    ( Plant a little seed and nature grows )
  8. Niagara falls
  9. the pyramids
  10. everything you believed in as kids
  11. fucking rainbows after it rains

And then at 1:50

  1. water
  2. fire
  3. air
  4. dirt
  5. fucking magnets (how do they work?)
  6. solar eclipse
  7. vicious weather
  8. fifteen thousand Juggalos together

Then my favorite: (2:40)

  1. crows
  2. ghosts
  3. the midnight coast
  4. the wonders of the world
  5. (mysteries the most!)

“Crows, ghosts, the midnight coast.” That phrasing is so alluring, verging on nursery rhymes circa Grim’s Fairy Tales – it’s simple and it’s scary. And there’s a tangible sense of atmosphere.

Finally, on the Nuclear Edition of Bang! Pow! Boom! we wander into what I’ve now started fantasizing is ICP’s attempt to release their own list of a few of their favorite things – their Triple Threat Mix track is an impressive slurry of three tracks off the album’s initial release (Beautiful Doom, Creepy Freak Show, and The Clowns Are Back.)

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“Everybody dies, gargoyle skies” is another killer line – it drops you right into the graveyard on the outskirts of the dark carnival, ‘Admit One’ ticket clenched in your hand. “Time catches all of us, surpassing everything” follows suit.

And then, these are a few of their fav-or-ite things (1:59)

  1. blood that oozes slow
  2. sickos
  3. creeps
  4. carnival
  5. screams that shiver your spine
  6. the hatchet that hacks the meat out the swine
  7.  the spiders
  8. the axe still stuck in the head
  9. two dead bodies (fucking)
  10. that paint for the smile we wear
  11. (we caught a witch and cut off her hair)
  12. gloves that choke the neck
  13. the joker’s deck
  14. drums
  15. demonic guitar
  16. your last breath in a jar
  17. killers who stalk you down

et cetera, et cetera. Welcome to the dark carnival, to help newcomers get acquainted with the scenery we encourage you to participate in this wicked scavenger hunt.

Here are a few more things to keep an eye out for (3:32)

  1. the big top
  2. the crowd
  3. cannon blasts
  4. the tightrope
  5. lions
  6. acrobatics (flying)
  7. babies (crying)
  8. spectators (scared)
  9. ape boy
  10. jugglas
  11. lady with a beard

and

  1. the freak show
  2. house of mirrors
  3. maze of amazement (gone for years)
  4. the dunk tank
  5. guess your size
  6. the serpent lady’s lies
  7. tigers (let loose into the crowd)

And who is responsible for all this, you might ask? Well, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce: (4:26)

  1. the throat chokers
  2. cut-throat jokers
  3. ‘juggalotus’ (and you know this)
  4. most hated band on the planet
  5. so fresh they can’t stand it
  6. dark carnival minions
  7. the duke of the wicked
  8. the southwest-side ‘stranglord’ himself

They’ve got a litany of titles and everything.

So you’ve got your map, your compass, your guidebook, they’ve packed you a lunch, bought you a new pair of boots, and given you a ride to the trailhead. You know enough (hopefully) to stay away from Fonz Pond, you’re excited about matching wits with the Serpent Lady, and experiencing all the miracles of nature. You are on a fuckin’ journey, homey! Whoop whoop!

… right?

this is new: Ultrasound by Johnny Massacre

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First off, music video: http://www.weebls-stuff.com/songs/Ultrasound/

Fun from the beginning. The effects on the voice and those phased percussion is just a tad bit amateurish/’default presets’ sounding, but that’s not so much a bad thing – makes me think of the streets, lends some character. And no, not just because of the accent.

If you like it, buy it: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0033T0XXE/ref=dm_ty_adp_rd?ie=UTF8&parent=B0033T1BWQ

This Is New: Flatland EP by Sound Of Stereo

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These 3 tracks fall solidly under the category of “only if I’m in the mood.” And like sushi, I’m not in the mood very often… but when I am, this is exactly what I want.  The way Metric settles into the groove at 1:30 just does it for me. It’s all repetitive, and it’s not exactly breaking an new ground in the genre, but I’m okay with that. It’s very good at what it does.

Alternative Rock as a category

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Apropos nothing, is ‘Alternative Rock’ far too watered down and worn out to be an effective way of describing any particular music style? I mean, if you’re talking about something like ‘Speed Metal,’ images of long hair, tight costumes, and lengthy guitar solos brimming with unearthly arpeggio and glissando fill your head.

Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been paying attention, but alt rock just doesn’t resonate with me the same way. It’s not as easy to visualize. Is it Beck? Chumbawamba? The New Pornographers? And what, exactly, is it an alternative to? Somehow it seems to get itself tangled in ‘college,’ but I don’t get that association either. Anyway, I don’t feel that any of those three examples wouldn’t be better described (both by intentional double-negative use and) by something like ‘Electro Rock.’ And when it comes down to it, I suspect my brother and I skew things far more towards being an electro rock blog than an alternative rock blog.

musicblog reborn

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No one reads this, of course, but for posterity, let’s be a little ambitious and claim that things are changing around here – more regular posts, hopefully, more consistent content, possibly tie-ins to some other sites (lala.com and last.fm in particular) – we’ll see how that goes. a visual facelift is way overdue (ha ha, as if it ever even had a face to begin with.)

Anyway. keeping the posts from before, but new shit from this point forward, hopefully shooting for at least once a week.

Men Without Hats – Jenny Wore Black (Pop Goes the World, 1987)

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Another amazing gem from Men Without Hats. This song comes to us from their amazing, possibly rock opera, if not then at least, concept album Pop Goes the World. Which details the lives of fictitious rock superstars, Jenny and Johnny, who are in the band The Human Race.
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We start off with some solid Harpsichord, bass guitar, drum, and synth horns. Also, take care to listen to the cool call and response parts.
Jenny wore black
jenny wore white - WHITE!
and jenny was real
but almost not quite
and jenny was here
she was almost inside
and jenny was real
but jenny was frightened by the way
we looked at her
and jenny could see
she was only a child
The choruse contains some tasteful female backing vocals, and more cool harpsichord.
jenny concealed all but her smile
and when she smiled we said hey HEY!
you'll never see clear with tears in your face hey!
you'll never see clearly anyway
I said I loved you blindly, and I do
we're only two strangers in ways

The next verse is the same as the last. Take note of the cool voice agumentation on the “la la la”s
jenny wore black
jenny wore white, WHITE!
and jenny was real but almost not quite (la la la la la la)
and jenny was here she was almost on time
and jenny was real
but jenny was frightened by the way
we looked at her
and jenny could see within us for a while
jenny revealed all but her smile
and when she smiled we said hey HEY!
you'll never see clear with tears in your face hey!
you'll never see clearly anyway
I said I loved you blindly, and I do
we're only two strangers in ways
we should say
Finally we come to possibly my favorite part of this whole song. The bridge.
you always caught my eyes where
the dreams peter in
and I can't remember
wherever I've been
there's still holes for my eyes
where the dreams peter through
all I can remember
is when I was with you
Does this remind you of anything? Because to me it sounds like an allusion to the Beatles “Fixing a hole” And making musical allusions to the Beatles, is a really amazing feat, in my book. The rest of the song pretty much continues like before. Another chorus then the end. Pretty much an amazing song.

Orchestral Movments in the Dark – Bloc Bloc Bloc (Crush, 1985)

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I really like this song. And one of th things that I like a lot about it, is I have nearly no idea what it’s about. Okay, that not totally true. I mean, as far as I can tell, it’s mostly just a bunch of verses about what this guy wants to do. Shall we get into it then?

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It starts off with a solid bass line, a little bit of reverb-y guitar, and hand claps. Also a little bit of synth on the top, and some shaker. Then, the first verse. Now before I get into the lyrics of the first verse, one of the things that I really like about this song is that there ISNT a chorus, it’s really just the verse part repeated over, separated by a little bridge part.

I want to go up to Detroit
I want to lie in the shade
I want to visit the president
And then I want to get laid

Then, right on cue and perfectly timed, enter the drums!

I want to go down to Memphis
I want to talk to the king
I want to tell him we’re sorry
And it won’t happen again

What does that mean? Is he going to tell Elvis that… he’s sorry that he died maybe? I have no idea, but it’s a really cool line regardless. A little bit of lead synth, and then back to the verses. Notice, we’ve also added an acoustic guitar strum to the beginning of each phrase. And, possibly my favorite part, the amazing call and response singing.

I’ve got a photo of James Joyce
It’s a photo by Man Roy
It’s not very very much like him
But it’s not for me to say

Who’s Man Roy? That’s what I want to know. I used to think he was saying “memory” A quick jump on on wikipedia reveals… Nothing! Who is this mysterious Man Roy? Why did he take a photo of Jame Joyce? We may never know! But on to the next verse.

She sacrifices her body
Almost every night
Just like a lamb to the slaughter
And she thinks it makes him feel right

Bridge, then lead synth, with the addition of some little saxophone hits.

You gave me so many problems
You made me crash in my car
I’ll have a martini cocktail
And then we’ll see where we are

So just be nice to your brother
I’ll take your sister to bed
And I can bloc bloc bloc till the weekend
But you’d better come back soon

“I take your sister to bed!” Ahhhhh. So great! What exactly does bloc bloc bloc, mean? Once again, I have no idea. I really think it’s a song in the Bob Dylan style. Verses that are really just cryptic descriptions of things, instead of being a coherent story line. But instead of being kitschy, it’s well implemented. And kinda silly. But good. I would strongly suggest checking out the rest of this album, as it is similarly good.

-James Out

The Incredible Machine – Will We? (The Incredible Machine, 2009)

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The final in my Incredible Machine triad. I’m really tempted to keep on doing songs by them until Matt starts to get annoyed with me, and kicks me off. But unfortunatly there are so many good songs, and so little time. Anyway, Will We?

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We start off with a killer banjo lick, and bass guitar, and jump right into it.

I’m going to write the song that breaks your heart today.
Trade pretty tears for pretty chords,
Leave you standin’
with nothing left to say.

Like a lemon, so bitter and sweet
Just desserts are not a fun dish to eat

“Like Lemon, so bitter and so sweet” Recalls the famous folk standard “Lemon Tree” And then “Just desserts are not so fun to eat” Just ties it together amazingly well. We move next to the chorus, which contains a bit of snare percussion (accenting the beat) and some backing vocals.

‘Cause I’m trying to see
What exactly it is you want from me
I guess we’ll never know
Will we?

The next verse is just more of the same goodness.

This is the hardest part I have to do today.
When I tell myself I never cared and
just imagine
this all away.

If this is a game then you’ve sure got me beat
Staring awkwardly down at my own feet

Oh no! Our scorned angry narrator is not possibly as scorned or angry as he would like to be. He’s torn between wanting revenge for a broken heart, and still having feelings for the person. I’d especially like to point out “If this is a game then you’ve sure got me beat”  Next chorus is same as the last. The last Verse is most certainly my favorite. It goes on as usual, then during the list of things, we get this cool breakdown part. Complete with hand claps and tambourine.

I’m going to write that song that breaks your heart today
Trade pretty tears for pretty chords,
Notes that shake you to the core
Let’s see what I’ve got to say:

She’s the one gives me the blues
Her tiny toes In dancin’ shoes
With hair that’s like a summer breeze
a picnic under Autumn trees
I lost the game I’d like to play
I’m feeling so alone today
I’m feeling so alone today

We end with another chorus (tambourine included) and a nice little ending bit. All in all, a fantastic song. Lots of really good descriptive lyrics at the end, combined with a simple poppy sound, makes this one a real winner in my mind.

-James Out

The Incredible Machine – Jump Ship (The Incredible Machine, 2009)

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Another amazing song from our friends at The Incredible Machine. This song is the opening track, and works really well to that effect, because it really sets the tone for the whole album.

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We start off with a nice little harmonizing bit and then jump right into the song, with acoustic guitar.

We’re finally taking on water
Turns out I was the Captains’ Daughter
Personify us as sinking
Like the Loveboat with less drinking
I know I shouldn’t say it
But I feel the metaphor’s appropriate
Seems I just spend all my time
On a sinking ship that never hits the land line

“Personify us sinking, Like the love boat with less drinking” Is a really great line. The the song suddenly changes directions, and we get a bouncy little piano part, that reminds me of a song from a musical.

Okay,
I can say,
That this metaphor is probably sounding quite cliché
That’s okay,
It’s exactly how I felt when I was standing on the blue
Next to you,
And It feels just like there’s absolutely nothing I can do
Absolutely nothing
Absolutely nothing I can do
Absolutely nothing
Absolutely nothing I can do to get through to you.

I think that it’s safe to say that’s probably my favorite part of the whole song. “I can say, That this metaphor is probably sounding quite cliché, That’s okay” Is pretty amazing all on it’s own. The whole talking to the audience style. Then the epic build up during the “Nothing I can do” section is also really good. We move then to the next verse, which is similar to the first, in instrumentation.

In truth we were nothing like a sinking ship
Sinking takes a long time, plus you get a little wet
And even though we’re both sick of untrue metaphors
We keep repeating the same old shit we’ve said before

“Sinking takes a long time, plus you get a little wet” Very very true words. I really like having two people sing two different things at the same time, in a song. I think that it’s a really good technique to use, and if implemented correctly, can really dad depth to a song. This time it works very well. Marissa sings the first verse, while Jordan sings the second over top of it, coming to the climax at

I’ve got to jump ship to make this work,
I’ve got to jump ship to make this
work, I’ve got to jump ship to make
this work,
I’ve got to jump ship!

Then some intense instrumental sections, all ending, like the beginning, with some nice vocalizing harmonies. Like I said, this is a perfect way ton start out a album. It sets the bar high, and then easily clears it.

-James Out