La Dispute – Wildlife review

La Disputes sophomore release, Wildlife, is a mature, shiver-inducing, articulate collection of 14 songs all centred around the theme of suffering, and how people deal with it. Every track is distinctly its own, both lyrically and musically, and they orbit around three different ideas: growing up in Michigan, stories of people who suffered and how they got through, and journal entries from a narrator dealing with some serious existential issues.

The album opens with A Departure, and immediately fans of La Disputes last full length, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River between Vega and Altair, will sense the departure from their previous sound, whilst still keeping the same sensibilities that made them so endearing before. There is a more ‘alternative’ (is there a more ambiguous term to describe a sound?) vibe to the guitar work, akin to what can be found on the Here, Hear EP’s, and some of the lyrics make reference to some of the same situations first brought up on Here, Hear 3. A Departure gives way to Harder Harmonies, which is one of the catchier, crowd oriented songs. It deals with a character (possibly the schizophrenic son from Edward Benz, 27 Times) who considers the parallel between music and life in general (And all the ones who seem to fit the best into the chorus never notice there’s a song/And the ones who seem to hear it end up tortured by the chords when they fail to find a way to sing along). Ending off with a chant, it’s sure to become a gem of their live show.

While the next four songs are brilliant (especially A Letter), and could easily warrant an essay each examining all the ideas that swirl around, The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit is the next highlight. Lyrically, it examines the idea of finding meaning through physical interaction at a party, and has a lovely lyrical throwback to their previous album (Just trying to learn how all the wires in the body work). Musically, it’s one of the more upbeat and danceable tracks, and like Harder Harmonies, will hopefully become a staple of their live set. The next song is more mellow, journal entry style song and has a super heavy emphasis on the lyrics, which talk about that bizarre existential burden that hangs over the narrators head.

And after that, things just get ridiculous.

King Park; Edward Benz, 27 Times; and I See Everything are the three songs that put the most emphasis on examining suffering, and how people deal with it. It uses three incredibly poignant stories about a drive-by shooting gone wrong, a violently schizophrenic son and a seven year old with cancer, respectively. Each song is completely different from each other musically, but they all manage to physically induce shivers through a seamless blend of concise and powerful lyrics coupled with some potentially disharmonic guitar parts and perfectly timed drums. If one has the time to sit and fully devote one’s attention to listening, all three songs will not disappoint.

After that triad of excellence, the album continues on with a final journal entry, then the penultimate track that summarizes some of the lyrical ideas on the album, and ends with You and I in Unison, which is an enjoyably witty title.

If you enjoyed their last release, you will love this album. If you hated them before because of the vocalists style, you’ll probably hate them again. Your loss. Even though all the songs are amazing in their own right (although Edit Your Hometown feels a bit cheesy and cliché at times), specifically check out A Letter, The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit and King Park. If you like what you hear, definitely purchase the full album.

Dancing With Paris – The Drought review

The Drought, the second full length from Ontario-based metal/hardcore band Dancing With Paris is more or less steak with vegetables. Rotten vegetables. The music is juicy, delicious and appetizing, whereas the lyrics are just gross and undercooked rehashments of every cliche ever uttered, with a few sparse sprinklings of originality here and there. The album kicks off with The Peter Principle, and then kicks you in the face with it. The guitarwork sounds like The Chariot’s The Fiance had an affair with Underoath’s Lost in the Sound of Separation, and the child grew up to be damn fine. Sudden, but organic, groove changes keep the listener interested and engaged, and the easily-remembered refrain ‘we have to stand up together, we have to face these machines” (this refrain pops up all throughout the album, which is nice) sets the stage for some good crowd interaction when played live.

There are also some female guest vocals going on, which is fairly uncommon in this realm, so it’s a good touch. The album continues along these lines, with random female vocals popping up alongside ample amounts of groove mixed in with enough unexpected musicality to give each track it’s own place. One very enjoyable, albeit minimalistic, bit is the guitar riff halfway through In The Direction of Sharks. Sadly, it gets hampered by the genericism of the lyrics “the time has run out, my world is closing in on me.” Even though what is being said has been said to death already, how it is being said still retains a fair amount of interest; the screamer has a good range, and the male clean vocals sound like a real human being, not the angelic, over-produced singing that usually winds up in this general style of music. Indeed, the majority of the phrasing on the album is well-done, and for a sophomore effort it’s impressive.

The interlude, Speculation, is also more interesting than most, because it starts off with robotic sounding breathing that sounds labored, which is a bizarre thing for a machine to do. That track bleeds right into The Last Man, which is another groovy crowd pleaser, filled with breakdowns and chants. The album continues along it’s 12 track journey, finally ending with Lights To Lights, an interesting drum driven song that loses a lot when the female guest vocals come in, because by this point, it’s just monotonous.
If you like heavy music, check out a song or two and see how you feel. If you’re a stickler for lyrics, this won’t please. If you go mushy for sweet guitar playing, definitely buy this album.

The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne review

Like the best and most terrifying of serial killers, the Devil Wears Prada’s fourth full length, Dead Throne, is both horrifically brutal and chillingly intelligent. Lyrically the album deals with mostly idolatry, but self-defeat, self-loathing and self referencing (‘Back for the fourth time around/ and still meaning every word’ on Untidaled) all make appearances. Musically, it’s tight to the point of confusing. Everything just fits so well and is extraordinarily balanced, it makes one slightly unsettled as they wait for the dischord and off-time synths that populated their prior releases.

Mike (the vocalist)’s range is more diverse than ever before now that he’s incorporating a yelling vocal technique that often lands somewhere between new Bring Me the Horizon and old mewithoutYou (this middleground is best heard on the beginning on Chicago). Which sounds just as interesting as one would think. Sadly, the clean vocals continue to sound as over-produced as Katy Perry, but they provide a much needed counterpoint to the insanity of the mishmash of screams, growls, hollers, chants and grunts that the harsh vocals employ.

There is a lot of ear candy on this album, with many parts that make the listener think to himself “What just happened? Is this real life?” One of the many high points is the instrumental track Kansas that incorporates a good two line audio sample and draws attention to it because of it’s minimalism. Each track has things that make them stand apart, whether it be guttural and unnerving guest vocals (as on the end of Constance), or lovely drum and bass bits (the beginning of Forever Decay). There is maturity all over, and the most noticeable place is in the song titling. Rather than the joke titles that were characteristic of their freshman and sophomore releases (Reptar King of the Ozone, anyone?), the new LP features song titles that not only relate to what the song is about, but are often found in the lyrics of the song they title. A bold move for a band that had been characterized by their scatological song titling. This advancement bleeds over into every other aspect of their music, with concise lyrics, pitch perfect screams, immaculately placed everything and an over-all feeling that it’s more than just a metal album; it’s an album on it’s own merit. The Devil Wears Prada takes all the elements found within heavy music (ridiculously low tuning, breakdowns, extreme vocals, etc) and crafts them into something not new, but something fresh that offers a much needed break from the monotony that encapsulates most releases of late, regardless of genre.

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix review

The claimed ‘fix’ that Bombay Bicycle Club intrigues us with in the title of their new album can be compared to the type of fix you might get by shopping at a clothing thrift store. As you first enter, sure, it’s nothing THAT special – but still – you might be excited to find clothing you like enough to take home with you. And you have an idea of what you’re looking for, what you may see, but there’s that anticipation of what may catch your interest, and there’s the subtle anticipation of discovering the unknown.

As you casually look through the clothing racks, some things are of interest to you, but after a while things blend together in a forgettable way. It’s not necessarily that you don’t like the clothes…they may just be nothing you haven’t seen before. There’s a familiar stale scent in the air, there’s the feeling that many people have been here before. Nothing is too unique, but the familiarity is what comforts you. You’re free to wander. You’re free to explore. And sometimes, if you’re really having fun, you just want to dance! The song ‘Shuffle’ is perhaps more appropriately titled than BBC realized.

All analogies have to break down somewhere, so let’s get serious. This band has seemed to experiment musically, within obvious comfort zones; re-occurring vocal phrasings, intricate and melodic guitar lines, enthusiastic bass…but there are some interesting things that seem to differ from the previous albums; particularly in the over-arching sound production. The whole album is crisply streamlined, with little to no raw sounding instruments, like in the previous albums. There is a pleasant fullness to the album due to its use of reverb and delay, with a heavy use of synth pads and textures that fill the holes in the overall sound. The album is particularly impressive in the area of drums; specifically the use of percussive instruments, like wood blocks and tambourines and intriguing rhythms. Every instrument sounds so well produced that BBC may have set the bar high for any upcoming live shows.

The album has a sense of unity to it, that all songs flow together well, and although it all sounds good, not too much stands out. Either a) take a nap and let yourself drift in it, or b) Take an introspective drive at 2am and mellow out.

Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony review

Balance is one of those things that is not instinctive. Babies have to learn it for basic walking to occur, and gymnasts and dancers and their ilk must learn it to perform in their chosen professions. Musicians also need to have a certain amount of balance, knowing how to structure a song to give it a feeling of completeness and finality; there is also the balance between the Apollonian and Dionysian dynamics of work, with the former being the orderly and logical, and the latter being the emotional and chaotic parts of a work. At first listen, Fleshgod Apocalypse is fully Dionysian, nothing more than a sonic blur of blast beats and shredding. But upon closer inspection, it lacks any emotion; it’s a near-hour long mathematical send up to Apollonian art. There is a staggering amount of order and logic to what is occurring, with absurdly tight timing and impossibly fast drumming.

Technical Death Metal is a bit of an acquired taste, and to make it Italian Technical Death Metal just adds more level of absurd to it. Not to say that Italians are absurd, more so screaming in Italian is. And there is plenty of that. There are also a lot of symphonic bits that appear throughout the album. The opener sounds quite a bit like the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, and that feels pops up often throughout the album, usually as a way to segue between two songs. Or to segue between every song.

In all fairness, there is a chance that on the Italian Technical Death Metal scene, this album is as fresh as a newly picked bouquet of roses. To anyone who has a wider variety of taste in music, Agony, the name of Fleshgod’s second album, is what it’s name suggests: an agonizing exploration of monotony. There really isn’t much to distinguish one track from another, aside from occasional piano pieces or interesting drum fills. Although it is interesting to hear someone yelling something presumably angst-filled in Italian, this album really isn’t worth the effort to download.

Jeff Bridges – Jeff Bridges album review

Narcissism is not really an attractive feature, generally speaking. Some people can pull it off and masquerade it as self-confidence, but most can’t. The issue is discerning between people who are generally so full of themselves they’re oozing with pride, and those who circumstantially happen to give off the façade of egotism.

Naming your debut album after yourself can go either way, but it sits heavily in the former camp. Singing your own harmonies and melodies could be an artistic choice used to draw more attention to a theme, but when it happens on every track, it feels more like said person simply likes the sound of their own voice. Not putting any effort into your lyrics could be a by-product of focusing so heavily on the music, but when the music ends up being mediocre, it really leaves the listener wondering why the musician in question is even producing music.

The musician in question is Jeff Bridges, best known to the 20-somethings as ‘that dude who played the dude in Iron Man who was the bad guy.’ Based on the lack of fresh ideas and any reason for sustained interest presented in the ten song offering, his eponymous album will leave him as ‘that dude who played the dude in Iron Man who was the bad guy.’

Musically, it sits firmly in “I am retired and will obnoxiously listen to this very loudly because it touches my soul’ arena, and is sure to be loved by senior homes everywhere. It seems specifically crafted to slowly rock your head back and forth while you think of a way to finish the sentence ‘back in my day…’ Ample (and by ample, I mean an obscene amount) of slide guitar noodles in the background of every song, usually set over an insipid beat that a four year old with ADHD could top. Not every song reeks of the same painful stylistic stagnation, but most do. One of the most musically endearing tracks on the album, Tumbling Vine, starts off with a very jazzy vibe; it quickly gets ruined by the senselessly over-rhymed lyrics that hinder the musical exploration that is transpiring. At around 1:30, Jeff stops singing completely and the instruments are given centre stage, which almost completely saves the track. Almost.

But enough of simply talking about how horribly clichéd the lyrics are, here is a prime example from the opening track, What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do: “Theres a way to turn your pain right into pleasure/ drastic times seem to call for drastic measures.” What is this, All Time Low? Ol’ Jeffy has clearly never heard the painfully (un)ironic statement “avoid clichés like the plague,” and most of the album seems to be based on the idea that the more overused a statement is, the more appropriate it is to use it again.

If you are a Jeff Bridges stalker, go ahead, love this album. If you like boring country music, go ahead, love this album. If you like moderately interesting bass lines, go ahead, love this album (but only if you can get past the incredible mediocrity of everything else). If however, you enjoy fresh music that doesn’t primarily depend on the singer’s fame from non-musical ventures, skip this like it’s a rope.

New Discolour – Short Of Ink review

Being a musician isn’t easy. While the Internet has made it simple for anyone to get their music into the earholes of everyone, this has also made it incredibly more difficult to stand out; sometimes it’s incredible that any band ever gets a modicum of recognition and appreciation, let alone a fan base. Amidst all of the ‘been there, done that’ bands that crowd music sharing sites, there are a select few that stand out. The Danish hardcore/metal quintet New Discolour is not one of them; neither are they more of the same ilk as the plethora of ‘pummeled to death with chug-a-chug guitar riffs and china-based breakdown’ bands that choke the airwaves. New Discolour exists in a bizarre gray area of ‘almost noteworthy, but not quite.’ This is exemplified all throughout their nine-song debut album Short Of Ink.

The eponymous opener is a little over a minute and a half of just straight up metal: downtuned bass and guitars sounding suspiciously like sawblades whir over a steadily increasing beat that then gives way to the second track. Which sounds a lot like the first. Only now vocals have been added to the mix.

Musically, there’s a very heavy Parkway Drive feel to everything that’s going on, except the screams lack the enunciation that makes Parkway easy to get into. New Discolour’s vocalist has an impressive range of vocal styles, but they’re never really given a chance to shine: they’re bogged down beneath clichéd riffs and weighted by generic phrasing. Lyrically, it’s very difficult to understand much of what is being said, so he might be quoting Shakespeare of Brittany Spears. Not really sure. Not to say that the entire album is unappealing. There are a few highlights, such as the end of Black Face, which feels like it’s building to an epic breakdown, but then just stops; very unsettling and extremely enjoyable.

For people who only listen to metal, this disc is sure to delight. It’s got all the basic elements and plenty of them. For people with a wider musical palette, there are not many selling points to this album. Skip it, but if New Discolour releases a sophomore album, check that out. There’s potential here, but it’s buried deep.

The Deep Dark Woods – The Places I Left Behind review

Well, you see, when The Editors and The Civil Wars love each other very much, they express that love by making a baby. However, there is no evidence that either band is aware of each other, but if they were, and aforementioned scenario took place, the resulting spawn would undoubtedly sound almost identical to The Deep Dark Woods, but in a way that is constructive, not derivative. Ample amounts of slide guitar, organ and warm, organic drums sounds set the soundscape for the bands vocalist to methodically meander his through their senior thirteen-song album, The Place I Left Behind. Upon first listen, the only noticeable thing they left behind would be all the annoying minutia that normally keeps country from being taken seriously: gone are lyrical themes of pride in ignorance, generic heartbreak met by alcohol dependency, objectification of women, shallow interpretation of religion, and boastings of identity based on material wealth; banished are the painfully upbeat four to the floor beats barely hidden behind guitar licks that should have been laid to rest the moment they were born, with their seemingly automated verse-chorus structure; and absent is the annoying forced vocal effect that so many artists in the country realm seem forced to employ. What’s left is a bluesy ode to life, a shimmering album brimming with songs that hold depth to rival any other genre, but a pop sensibility to not alienate people who are ardently opposed to the genre.

It’s a slow burner of an album, with appropriately placed instrumental solo’s, usually organ, which carry the listener to the edge of emotional catharsis, and leaves them there. If you had nothing to cry about before listening to this album, the music alone will make you want to weep bittersweet tears of yearning for an almost unperceivable feeling of muted euphoria. It’s a mixed bag of the best kind, overflowing with feeling, wrapped in a style that is usually so contrived that finding one worthwhile song is a mystery. The fact that a complete collection of songs manages to avoid the normal shoddiness is nothing short of a miracle.

Alt-country seems destined to be the new revivalist-retro-synth-pop-rock that is so popular amongst the ‘cutting edge’ of today’s art crowd elite. If a person had an undercut hairstyle a few months ago, but have since traded it for a Paul Varjack, 50’s-esque classy comb-over, then you can expect The Deep Dark Woods to be at the forefront of their sonic snobbery in the near future. This isn’t simply because of the Deep Dark Woods fresh branch of decidedly not synth-based music, it’s because they are actually talented. Their songs might not hold much summer sway, but in the words of E. B. White’s realist crickets: “summer is over and dying, over and dying. Summer is dying, dying” and with it’s death and heralding of colder climates, The Deep Dark Woods slides in perfectly to fill the void of happiness that the absence of heat created, with their melancholic melodies tailor made for browning leaves, drizzling rain and slow snow fall.

Painted Palms – Canopy EP review

Painted Palms debut ‘Canopy EP’ is very much like freezing water: a bit bland, but precisely what is needed on a blisteringly hot summer day. The five-song collection feels specifically crafted for trips to the beach, parties on the beach, and driving home from the beach to go enjoy some time relaxing around a pool.

There is a song on here for any summer occasion, from discussing life at three in the morning (Great White) to aforementioned trips to the ocean (All Of Us) to watching it rain and wishing to do something (Water Hymn). However, the magic is purely seasonal, and listening to this album in weather less than 20C would feel wrong.

Each song blends into each other, but then has a distinct switch that gives each track a diverse flavor. Overall, there is a heavy MGMT/Matt&Kim/Yeasayer/Darren Hayes feel to the EP, but not so much that it feels derivative. Lyrically, it is highly repetitive and often simply vowel based vocalization (such as track number two, Water Hymn, where no discernable words are ever said), but when lyrics do appear, they are never clichéd and generally carry a feel of whimsy and nostalgia: “I’m falling asleep, watching the glow/walking alone on my way home/they come and they go these wandering dreams/drifting from me, falling asleep.”

There are lush and diverse instrumentation with good high and low balance, coupled with a strong, albeit unexceptional, vocal performance. Like their music, this two-piece from California/Louisiana also has aquatic properties; like a very large but shallow puddle, they cover a wide range of things without getting too deep and dirty. Start this album turning mid May, but when school bells ring it should be packed away for a year to make way for more appropriate fair.

Vondelpark – NYC Stuff and NYC Bags EP review

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I’m kind of annoyed, but not really. I’m more melancholic than annoyed, but I also have a large desire to sleep” than Vondelparks ‘nyc stuff and nyc bags’ EP is perfect for you. It’s slow and sad in a way that isn’t despairing. Yes, the world can be oppressive, and yes, people have their faults, but tomorrow is a new day. That seems to be the primary feel of the entire 5 song collection, which is a mesmerizing swirl of downtempo beats underneath ambient synths and disconnected vocals; haunting, to say the least.

The highlight of the album is the aptly titled “outro for nyc’ which is the final song on the album. It has a lovely bass line which gives way to a minute and a half of effective minimalistic beats and aforementioned airy, haunting, ambient vocals. Most of the vocalizing on the album is in the form of indecipherable Gregorian-esque chanting, although some track, such as the opener ‘TV’ offer a fairly hearty refrain of “you’re a tv,’ which offers quite a few interpretations.

This little gem of an album is best saved for days where simply relaxing won’t do; when your mood is dark yet you want to revel in it without making it darker. Whether cloud watching or stargazing, these songs seem designed to be listened to while one is at rest, staring into infinity with little care for anything. They’re existential without being too heady, dark without being depressing and simple without being stupid. Overall, definitely worthwhile for anyone who is a fan of a slower Pretty Lights or Gorilla’s more chilled out songs.