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John Maus – We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves album review

Honestly? I couldn’t really get into John Maus’ long-winded ‘We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves’ – an album released in June 2011. The same instrument – possibly an organ or some ancestor or cousin thereof – dominates this collection of music, making it incredibly difficult to hear Maus’ possibly Morrissey-sounding voice (which can only be a shame).

John’s voice is like a faint, annoying noise in the background – like the humming of a computer or white-noise. While every song sounds instrumentally different, his vocals remain stagnant and uninteresting. I’m a huge fan of vocals and lyrics, so when they’re oppressed and hidden behind instruments, it gets to me. You know sometimes when you’re at a concert, the sound sucks and the singer’s voice is all muffled? That’s kind of how this entire album sounds – this might be because he’s singing into one of those old, enormous plastic microphones from your childhood. Or is he? Beats me.

‘Streetlights’ is first up. It opens with some generic, repetitive techno beats, and then Maus begins to mumble his way into your first impression of him (which isn’t a good one). Plus, once you’ve heard this song, you’ve pretty much heard them all. Well, as far as technique, tone, and ‘suck’ go. I have never been a huge fan of music where the instruments overwhelm the singer themselves, so I guess I’m biased in that sense.

The following song is extremely annoying, appropriately entitled: ‘Quantum Leap’ – because that’s exactly what this entire album needs to take… right off of a cliff. Some phony over-the-top, try-hard beat leads us into this let-down of a song. Boo.

‘Cop Killer’ is another song, which repeats: ‘Cop Killer, let’s kill the cops tonight, kill the cop killer.” After that it’s more mumbles that aren’t even worth the effort it would take to decode them. Neither instrument, technique, nor tone has changed.

The album ends with ‘Believer’ and I could actually stand this song. Well, the first eight-seconds that is, before that loud and irritating ‘organ’ thing started playing. My verdict for this album? Mundane. I feel like John’s stone isn’t going to do much rolling, my bet’s on the accumulation of ‘Maus.’

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Forest Swords – Fjree Feather EP review

The Fjree Feather EP by Forest Swords, is a thirty-three minute long EP that is comprised of six excellent tracks. Forest Swords is a one-man project, the composer? Matt Barnes. His almost sinister, strictly instrumental and electronic compositions are fashioned out of Wirral/Liverpool, UK. Each track on Fjree Feather is generally ominous, captivating, and perpetually diverse. And while each track differs, they all hold the promise of some serious head nodding.

The EP’s first track, ‘Down Steps,’ electronically howls for your attention –setting the perfect mood for the EP. The percussion and bass lay the foundation down for this track at two-minutes in, compelling you to move your head with the beat. The water stills and thirty-seconds later: Boom! Crash! Thundering electric waves introduce intense offerings of awesome to the track. This percussion-heavy song is worth a listen.

Its neighboring track, ‘Red Rocks Fogg,’ has a more contemplative, sentimental tone. It possesses a ‘cease the moment’ kind of attitude with a few nostalgic chords. One of those songs you would add to your music play-list entitled: Create. Don’t have one? Well I do and this song’s the newest addition.

‘Trust Your Blood’ is one track that really stands out to me. Its spooky ‘there’s-something-out-there’ mood is enchanting. For a portion of the song, Barnes repeats a possibly love-related phrase that I can’t quite decipher – regardless, hearing a voice in a of his tracks only beautifies it further.

Within the first few seconds of listening to ‘Riverbed,’ a euphoric wave of satisfaction washed over me. Goose bumps ensued. Matt Barnes is a musical architect in every sense of the word. The haunting sound of this track is responsible for some sort of soul paralysis – hyperbolic, yes, but pretty much the truth. It starts out harmless and then it turns on you. It’s a beautiful sense of betrayal.

Forest Swords’ eerie, peculiar sound is comparable to Black Mold. Matt Barnes and Chad Van Galeen would get along, I think. The two sounds are definitely have their differences but both never cease to amaze.

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Cities Aviv – Digital Lows album review

Cities Aviv‘s hip-hop/experimental album, ‘Digital Lows’, self-released May 2011, holds a lot of promise for the young Memphis-born lyricist and rapper. His lyrics are well articulated, moralistic, and intelligent. The instruments accompanying each track offer serious variety, ranging from soft to percussion-heavy and brooding.

‘Digital Lows’ provides the listener with diversity in every aspect of the meaning. ‘Tongue Kisser’ and ‘Black Box’ are two great examples of this. In the former, the almost incoherent voice of a female repeating broken phrases is both haunting and captivating. ‘Black Box’ featuring Fille Catatonique is all about a collective ‘scream for change’ in regards to the perpetual corruption in society. Some expressive yet empowering lyrics reinforce this outrage: “Mini-mart fuckers die, we just sing the blues; Babies being born with their fingers on the triggers; Feed ‘em hope ‘til they forget about the real things.”

From the first beat, ‘Fuckeverybodyhere,’ will make your head nod out of both approval and pure enjoyment. This track fluently captures the frustration that he experiences as an artist, surrounded by an arrogant gun-toting culture, which his lyrics make a mockery of in apparent disgust: “Some try to mark ‘em with an X like Malcom but you must’ve forgot that X marks the spot, got a gun to the sky, it’s the one that shot.”

Beginning with a strikingly beautiful sample of Oh Lori by The Alessi Brothers, the perfectly out of place ‘Meet Me on Montrose’ picks up the pace one-minute in when the rapping resumes, overlapping the sample. The contrast is maintained as the sample plays intermittently throughout the song, which tells a story of love and longing.

‘Voyeurs’ further establishes this idea of variety in that it opens with a much more harsh and unpleasant noise. This track has a comparatively more obnoxious set of lyrics and over all tone. Throughout the album his lyrics seem to transform from “You can find me in the clouds, I might reach them” to “She can suck on this while she fucks Taylor Swift with a strap-on dick,” and back again.

The album ends with an adaptation of ‘Float On’ – inspired by the famous Modest Mouse hit. Ultimately, ‘Digital Lows’ is an assortment of emotion, ranging from vehemence to vulnerability, with morality proving to be its greatest asset.

Cities Aviv - Digital Lows album review

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Doug Paisley – Constant Companion album review

He’s been called “Canada’s Paisley” – on October 12th, 2010, indie-folk singer-songwriter, Doug Paisley, breathed life into his second album, the charming, ‘Constant Companion.’ Paisley has a mellow tone to his voice and throughout the album, his vocals remain soft and sad yet saccharine. While his vocals foster some fulfilment, the album lacks variety. In that, it bores me. After a while, his simplistic lyrics and one-dimensional orchestration of instrument offer no satisfaction what-so-ever.

The first two songs, ‘No One But You’ and ‘What I Saw’, sound almost the exact same. No joke. The particularly beautiful ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ makes up for that though. This track features the perpetually talented Leslie Feist, who’s necessary for the creation of anything beautiful in this song. Paisley’s vocals on the track were perhaps influenced by Kid Rock’s in ‘Picture’ featuring Sheryl Crow, which may not be a necessarily bad thing but the parallel is apparent.

‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ was but an intermission, allotting time for the listeners to experience refreshing sound, because at the ‘End of the Day’ it’s the same old tune; however, there is some diversity offered in instrument and pace and there is even a female back-up singer accompanying certain lyrics.

Paisley’s voice juts from soft to some controlled ‘gruff’ in the beginning of ‘Always Say Goodbye’, then slowly fades into boring. Not a fan of the country-twang thing, either. Never a fan.

“O’heart, I’ve waited for these tears. I’ve felt fire but I could not draw near and so I shiver alone and terrified,” cries Paisley in his ode to his aching heart, cleverly entitled ‘O’Heart.’ Cruel? Possibly, but so was the subjection to this painfully generic song.

If you’re miserable, heart-broken, and want to do nothing more than wallow in music that only reinforces such anguish then you’re the perfect candidate for Doug Paisley’s ‘Constant Companion’. The only track worth a listen to is ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ and that’s mainly because it features the angelic voice of Feist. Every other song is basically an extensive, more melancholy, and softer version of ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’

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Peter, Bjorn, and John – Gimme Some album review

Peter, Bjorn, and John’s ‘Gimme Some’ – released March 28th, 2011, opens with an upbeat ‘Tomorrow Has To Wait’. This catchy song lulls you into a trance where, after just moments, toes begin to tap, heads begin to nod, and you effortlessly begin to sing along.

Unfortunately the former most portion of the album tends to offer almost no variety. The first five tracks are a constant stream of catchy music, causing the tracks to melt into one another. ‘Gimme Some’ could almost be translated into ‘collage of mediocrity.’ Almost.

Peter, Bjorn, and John are definitely capable musicians who, without fail, create catchy tunes that one could easily have stuck in their head all day. Their lyrics are not quite brilliant but not exactly sub par, either.

PB&J, like all bands before them, had to live up to and outshine their most popular single; ‘Young Folks’ epitomizes this concept for the Swedish indie rock band. The 2006 single raised the bar considerably for the group but the attractive sound of ‘Gimme Some’ definitely met fan standards. Individually, each song is strong, but collectively the album lacks a range of sound, suggesting weakness. This lack of variety creates the illusion of cookie-cutter noise.

‘May Seem Macabre’ is a fine example of a track that cuts the collective crap-flow that the earlier tracks on the album reinforce. This track in particular suggests that the album ‘may seem macabre (after a while), but it’s beautiful.’ There’s a gentle tone to the vocals on this track that emphasizes this beauty.

Immediately following ‘May Seem Macabre’ is another track that has a distinct execution of vocals and instrument. Toward the end of the song the musical trio shouts each word of the sentence: “Stop bringing us down and out of time!” The song isn’t exactly a masterpiece but the technique suggests originality.

Overall, ‘Gimme Some’ is a catchy, enjoyable album. The tracks could definitely be re-arranged, as this would make the first half seem less like a collage of similar-sounding catchy beats and would draw attention to how full of talent each track really is. Currently, as far as diversity goes, the album is bottom-heavy.

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The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low album review

“I want to feel something way out here. I need something to hunt me down even if it fucks me up. Come visit me way out here. I need you to save me even if it makes me worse,” from ‘Come Visit Me’ on The Rosebud’s ‘Loud Planes Fly Low’. This track in particular blatantly portrays those torn feelings one experiences after a break-up; however, this isn’t your average break-up album.

‘Loud Planes Fly Low’ reflects a dismal, bittersweet transitional phase that both Ivan and Kelly are currently enduring. The ex-husband and wife were struggling to establish themselves as plutonic band mates and friends throughout the creation of the album, released June 7th 2011.

Ivan’s hollow, desperate vocals in ‘Without a Focus’ articulate that ‘perspective ceases to exist without a focus,’ and that because he and Kelly ‘overlooked it every day, a thing of beauty just went away’. Broken-hearted Ivan and Kelly fought to replenish the fragments of their plutonic compatibility, truly igniting the chemistry and sorrow-filled spark necessary to complete the album.

‘Woods’, a faster-paced, more instrumentally up-beat song, is meant to uplift and empower. The track hasn’t relinquished that dark component but the element of power has been fused into the lyrics. The combination of the tones generate an indestructible passion and a reluctance to crumble.

The album glistens with authentic pain, strength, vulnerability, and the irreversible, unfathomable hardship that love entails. ‘Worthwhile’ (track 10) reflects this anguish in that during the actual recording of the song, the aforementioned empowered Ivan welled up with tears. You can almost hear it in his voice.

Overall, ‘Loud Planes Fly Low’ is well worth the listen. Break-up songs, tones, and albums have all been done before but Ivan and Kelly managed to create music that was unique in its theme. Their transitional situation itself is distinguishing and fosters hollow, passionate, and tranquil sound. The level of emotion throughout the album is mesmerizing. Using their breath-taking musical compatibility, Ivan and Kelly evoke an astounding level of empathy and relatability.