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Whitehorse – Progression review

Progression – Whitehorse…Review (if we can call it that)

When I received this week’s review task I didn’t really know what to expect. But with a name like Whitehorse I thought for sure it must be some sort of folky northern Canadian indie band with songs about the countryside. Boy was I wrong. As I dragged the album into iTunes I was disappointed to see the genre….Sludge/Doom… Oh geez, here we go. I’m the type who will throw on Beyonce when I’m feeling down, and who has no problem rocking out to the likes of Lykke-Li and Robyn. I’m an optimist and prefer music that is uplifting, or emotional. Can an avid listener of this type of music please comment and let me know on what occasion or time of day do you listen to this?….I’m assuming LOUD? What type of mood are you in when you throw these tracks down? Is it anger or desperate despair, or do you spin it on your daytime working playlist? Seriously as one music fan to the next, I’m just curious, not wanting to be condescending or anything.

Growing up as a hip hop fan lyrics historically hold a lot of weight with my ears, so the absence of them or the absence of definiable ones is somewhat difficult. The album “Progression” is heavy metal, and I know with metal it’s not about the lyrics; which sounded at points like throaty growling meant to intimidate at other points like the vocalist was going to Spew his Guts out.  As musicians these guys got it, they play the bass, the guitar and the drum hard and heavy, sometimes fast.

Honestly, usually Aussie boys make me smile with their sexy accents and all, but this band straight up depresses me. And I just don’t get the music…but maybe I’m not supposed to? Maybe that’s what makes it good? Anyways, check it out and let me know what you think…and if you love it, let me know why in the comments below!

@TaCaGo

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The Decemberists – iTunes Sessions review

The latest EP from indie folk rock band The Decemberists, is pure roadtripping music. The Ep opens  fast and upbeat with “Calamity Song”, that makes you want to jump in your ride and head to the lake. “Calamity Song” was reworked from the band’s most recent album, “The King is dead” and comes along with two other tracks from that album, “June Hymn” and “This is why we fight”. I loved the pace of “Calamity Song” but absolutely adored the harmonies of the latter two songs, as lead singer Colin Meloy’s voice mesh’s so well with the melodica of Renaissance Woman Jenny Conlee. They truly know how to harmonize and the songs both have a hopeful feel to them; “June Hymn” welcoming summer, and “This is why we fight” insinuating “freedom” as an outcome. Hope and Freedom; two themes that are integral to any roadtrip.

The Decemberists give us a bit of a history lesson on the menacing and eerie reworking of “Shankill Butchers” that was originally featured on 2006’s “The Crane Wife”. The Shankill Butcher’s were a Northern Ireland Loyalist gang during the 1970’s that were most infamous for their late night abduction, torture and murder of random Catholic Civilians. The Decemberists have turned this horrible recent history event into quite a beautiful song that sounds like something mothers in victorian times would sing to their children as a warning to be good. But similar to “innocent” children’s songs like “Ring around the Rosie” there is a real gruesome story behind the warnings in Colin Meloy’s chilling vocals. The Shankill Butchers tale would be a great creepy story to tell around a campfire that any good roadtrip most certainly would lead to.

Six of the 8 songs on the EP listeners will remember from the band’s 10 year discography, but two they will recall because they are covers. They rock out with the Fruit Bats “When U Love Somebody” and give it a really fast-paced blue-grassy tempo and I was bobbing my head to John Moen’s upbeat drumming. The other is Leonard Cohen’s, “Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye”. The sound is a little more country than the original, especially with the inclusion of Chris Funk’s slide guitar and Nate Query’s fiddle. The band put a bit of twang in it, but they did the adept poetry of Leonard Cohen justice, and I liked listening to the song. Any roadtrip playlist has got to have some twang to it right?

This EP is crisp, full, and well rehearsed, and sounds great as it was recorded live in their L.A. studio. I’ll definitely be playing this on my upcoming Californication roadtrip this September. Won’t you?

@TaCaGo

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Crystal Antlers – Two-Way Mirror review

The sophomore release from Long Beach California indie psych-rock group Crystal Antlers shows definite growth and maturity since their debut album, 2009’s Touch & Go release, “Tentacles”. The band got the short end of the stick with their first release being the last ever new release from Touch & Go, so the buzz and hype of the previous album wasn’t fully realized. With their latest release they seem to have gotten past the run of bad luck and created something with new label Recreation Ltd, that could really get them noticed.

This album is definitely more melodic, and laid back than their previous release; dare I say the band was in a happy place when it all came together. On this release vocalist Johnny Bell has transformed into a “Singer” and really shows his ability on tracks, “Sun-Bleached” and “Dog Days”. The latter being one of my favourite tracks on the album truly showing the versatility of his voice; easy listening tone complimented by the gruff, but still melodic wail.

The rest of the crew consists of Andrew King on guitar, Kevin Stuart on drums, Damian Edwards doing percussion and newest addition to the 5-some Cora Fox on the Organ. The Organ is definitely one of the trademarks of the Crystal Antlers sound and the lone female of the group did not disappoint, especially on  ”Seance” which is very busy sounding, kind of like a new age “Flight of the Bumblebee”. I really dig the organ as it makes many of the songs sound old, like saloon music you would hear in the olden days of cowboys and indians. Then on some tracks like “Summer Solstice” and “Fortune Telling” I got  beachy pop vibe. Summer Solstice is almost pure 60’s beach pop/ luau music, and the band produced a video that portrays this perfectly (see below).

One of the most emotional tracks on the album is the opener “Jules story”. It’s got heavy drums and Johnny Bell is probably most gruff and wailing on this track; lot’s of reverb and I truly felt the emotion through my speakers. I only later learned that it was written in response to and around the time a friend of theirs, I’m assuming Jules, was unfortunately killed by police. No wonder it’s emotional.

The overall sound of the album is loud, but not overpowering. It does travel through several emotions, despair, anger, sadness to lighthearted happiness and fun. Crystal Antlers may be criticized for being all over the place in this record, but I think it works. They have gotten over past hiccups and have a sound that is enjoyable to listen to. With this album they have the strength of a label behind them, so hopefully they can continue with the momentum and get touring so their fans can see them live.

~@TaCaGo

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The Joy Formidable – Roarities EP review

What a treat this 5 song EP was to the ears. It truly was sweet like candy and made me happy. Coming off the success of their 2011 debut album, The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable were nice enough to release Roarities which consists of 2 remixes and 3 live versions of songs from the The Big Roar. The threesome is heavily circling the festivals this summer so good on em for providing new material for their listeners as well as some live versions that may entice fans to catch the real thing this summer.

The band is made up of Ritzy Bryan on guitar and vocals, Rhydian Dafydd Davies on bass, vocals (and illustrations) and Matt Thomas on drums. These three are so talented and able to pull of such full sets with only three people, it’s crazy to listen to. With all the loops and pedals they use you feel as though they are a band the size of Arcade Fire. On the EP they showcase live versions of “The Heavy Abacus”, “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” and “Llaw=Wall”, and they prove that they are a band that truly shines live. Listening to these versions I could feel the energy  through my speakers. On, “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” you could hear the roar of the audience singing along; a true crowd pleaser. I really liked that “Llaw=Wall” was included on the EP because it was a nice change hearing the lead male vocalist on a track.

On another note, I just adore mash-ups and remixes as they have a way of bringing new audiences to an artist and vice versa. The EP opened with “Austere (The Naked and Famous Remix)” and it turned this chill rock song into a chill and whimsical Lykke Li-like dreamy pop song…suffice it to say I dug it. The second remix is of “Whirring (Innerpartysystem remix)”, this rock song was straight up turned into a dance hit a la Ellie Goulding. I also dug it.

The Joy Formidable have talent and their touring schedule shows it. Next on the docket they’ll be at Osheaga in Montreal and Lollapalooza in Chicago. Both festivals I’ve been on the fence about, but now I’m pretty darn sure I’ll hit at least one of them, and I got the Joy Formidables to thank for that!

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Teenage Scream – That’s Outrageous album review

The debut album from Screamo/pop band That’s Outrageous (a.k.a. TO) hailing from Poughkeepsie, New York is a broad overview of the talent’s of the band. They touch on a few different genres and styles, it was fun listening to how it all came together. The main ingredients are screamo hardcore and throat throbbing roars by vocalist Doriano Magliano, and the sort of whiny pop rock angsty vocal stylings of Tom Degrazia. Quite a contrast, which is why it works. The fusion of screamo/pop is nothing new or unique and done by many bands like Take the Crown, Blessthefall, and Mayday Parade as well as bands like Ten after Two and Attack Attack who are label mates on Rise Records with TO. I appreciated the differentiating factors TO brought to the stage with classical piano openings, electronic dance music backings, dubstep break beats and rap verses.

The six man band is rounded out by guitarists Joe Jensen and Dave Newton, Bassist Greg Adams and Drummer Max Wrye. One of the best tracks “The New York Chainsaw Massacre” is made by drummer Max Wrye who bangs out heavy double bass drums like a pro; really makes you wanna bang your head and maybe break some shit. Though I appreciated that the boys tried to incorporate rap into their album I didn’t really like it. On both tracks that featured rap “Teenage Scream” and “Re: Why I killed my girlfriend” the rap just sounded cheesy and kind of funny and out of place. I don’t even know if it can necessarily be called rap, more like a whole new genre; I’ll term it rhyme whine….they should stop that.

This is a young band and the album is appropriately entitled Teenage Scream, because that’s what it is…a temper tantrum from young men flowing with too much testosterone and emotion who were hurt by their ex-girlfriend. They sing/scream about love lost, but they take no blame, very hate driven. In “Is it 2012 yet” one of the lines is “This is the end, You fucked all my friends” and Tom DeGrazia sings “you don’t know the meaning of forever”…It’s very much a blame game. In Re: Why I killed my Girlfriend” they get mean and angry on the lyrics, “Saying your as low can be”, but what’s lower then passively agressively writing a song and calling the ex-girlfriend a bitch and a slut and threatening death?

What really made this album stand out to me is the piano intro’s and the dubstep mixes that can be attributed to Producer Cameron Mizell. The boys were great at playing their instruments and by way of the genre they really are a good representation of what screamo/pop should sound like. I look forward to when theses boys turn in to men and stop whining about their ex-girlfriends and make music with depth and longevity.

@TaCaGo

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Vladislav Delay Quartet – Vladislav Delay Quartet album review

After listening to the debut album by the Vladislav Delay Quartet, I feel a sense of relief.

It’s a very experimental and improvised record from Finnish percussionist Sasu Ripatti (a.k.a. Vladislav Delay). Ripatti notes “We cover various moods and atmospheres, from noise and hard stuff to ambient drone and a lot in between.” He explains that doing a solo album doesn’t allow for that much improvisation and freedom, “but with a Quartet, it feels natural.” The Quartet is rounded out by Lucio Capece’s reeds, Derek Shirleys double bass and Mika Vanio’s electronics.

At first glance one may think this is a jazz Quartet, but don’t get confused. This is dark ominous ambient music, not always a gloomy dark and not always a calming ambient. One should listen to this album with headphones to truly give oneself over to the layering of instruments that at times sounds like television static, or waves crashing or laser guns. They’re almost always accompanied by a deep low bass line that truly makes your skin crawl. Otherwise it’s decent background noise to be played low while being occupied by other tasks; this is not something you can listen to with friends over Sunday Brunch.

It begins by growling at the listener in “Minus Degrees, Bare Feet, Tickles”. The mix of rolling base and high pitched screeching truly made me feel like I was in a scary movie and it was night time and at any point the killer was going to jump out at me…hence why after listening I felt a sense of relief. The track I enjoyed most was “Louhos” as it sounds more like an Indian Bazaar than a scary movie soundtrack – very busy and upbeat, with high pitched reeds and laser beams. I’ll admit this music is alien to me not only because I haven’t listened to much else like it, but also because at points it sounded like Extraterrestrials were coming to take over earth. While I do appreciate creativity and open jamming and improvisation in music. The debut album by Vladislav Delay Quartet is definitely an acquired taste.