Sunday, October 12, 2014

How I Use Spotify

Turned the kettle on to boil, left the kitchen. Got distracted playing with the kids. Sat down at the computer. Heard the boiling sounds. Think it's some song I haven't heard yet on a playlist of mine. Must be coming from the computer. I'm sitting in front of the computer.

The point is my taste in music is weird.

Maybe not weird, but just all over the map. There's not much I can say I don't appreciate on some level. Boiling sounds from a mostly-empty metal kettle are not a far cry from some of the music I either like, or want to explore, and which I throw on my Spotify "Starred" playlist. And you know what, I like being all over the map.

Here's how Spotify helps me be all over the map, constantly devouring new music, ever exploring:

Your first question, as to whether it's free or not, is this: yes, with conditions. You'll get ads unless you fork over $5/month or something like that. Might be more, you check, I'm not paying. I just mute the ads.

They pause the ads when you mute it, an evil practice to be sure, but satisfiable to their ad-space-buying overlords. So just get used to hitting Mute, Play. Then pay attention to when the ad's over and un-mute appropriately. The topside keys on my MacBook Air are way too handy for this.

As for the devouring: I just find whole albums and throw them on the list (drag the album title to the column on the left). They're either from bands I know and love, or bands I want to become more familiar with. Spotify contains lots of recorded sound, from standup comedy to all sorts of music. Consequently, my "Starred" list is huge. I like everything (to the chagrin of my family at times).

Most things.

Then I set it to shuffle all (little icon down in the lower-right-corner or Command-S) and call it a big, giant experiment.

It takes some work, some controlling, some texturing. I'll be deleting songs here and there, or entire albums. When something comes up that I don't like, or is inappropriate for the kids, I'll just get it offa there. So the list is constantly evolving, shifting, becoming more pleasant while newer, unexplored album avenues and alleyways are added.

It's really fun. Spotify is cool. It's supposed to be free on your phone, but I can only get radio stations. But even those are fun.

Thanks, Spotify.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Trans Am, "Volume X"

The review: "Volume X" by Trans Am
img source: Thrill Jockey
The charge: it’s not Futureworld
Guilty parties: Phil Manley, Nathan Means, Sebastian Thomson

"Volume X" by Trans Am is not a concept piece. The boys compiled several unrelated songs they had been working on both remotely and during jam sessions. As such its sound is varied, and as a side note it would make a great party album.

"Volume X" thoroughly enjoys giving itself to you. In listening to it several times, I cannot think of a single instance during which I wanted to skip tracks. No part of "Volume X" is obnoxious, and at no point do the boys seem out of their practiced groove. They’ve been doing this a long time, and they don’t plan on calling it quits.

In my opinion, they’re only getting better. The 10th album by a 24-year-old band, "Volume X" is well polished. It probably doesn’t hurt that Manley is a professional recording engineer in San Francisco. If one learns new tricks and hones skills every time they make an album, then you know a Trans Am album is going to sound exactly the way the boys want it to, with good production and a full sound, utilizing minimalism, drones, and electronics, and jumping genres while still retaining that essential Trans Am feel of human machinery.

I’m gonna break it down track by track for you.

1st Track, “Anthropocene,” starts all angelic. Fades in really slowly. Then busts into this pretty sweet distorted bass riff with drums negating cymbals and hitting triplet beats on what sounds like six different toms. Sebastian Thomsen is a drumming wizard. He only hits that crash once in a great while here in “Anthropocene,” simply to signal the transition between chorus and verse.

Thomsen has always been my favorite member of Trans Am, and on this song he really shines. He’s every bit as talented as Danny Carey and Brann Dailor (who he toured with in Baroness while supporting Mastodon), but he takes on a more minimal style. He reminds me of Shellac’s Todd Trainer, and The Jesus Lizard’s Mac McNeilly—minimal, unhurried, yet rapid.

Also interesting about this song are the clean (though reverb-laden) vocals. Like, the guys actually had to sing and be on key without the help of a vocorder, the technique that made the song “Futureworld” sound so human-machine and beautiful. I don’t remember ever hearing a Trans Am song with pure human singing before “Anthropocene.”

2nd Track, “Reevaluations,” sounds like a bunch of mobsters in a room, reevaluating whether to put this snitch on ice.

“Show some patience…
Be in control…
If you don’t waste it… don’t you waste it… don’t you waste it.”

Now the guitar line in here has a real James-Brown-meets-The-Police feel. I say Brown because it’s really minimal, doing the same thing over and over to help retain the hypnotic feel. It also reminds me of an Eighties-Police guitar sound.

Suddenly the song opens up with a big major chord, but only for half a bar. Then it goes right back to that dark bass line. Then, what the heck is that, a Peter Frampton-style mouth-thing guitar solo? Pretty badass. A throwback to their TA album for sure.

This is a really sweet song, especially thru headphones. This album is badass. Trans Am have mastered their craft. They are Jedi.

Aw, you can hear some spontaneous in-studio laughter at the end! Sweet.


3rd track, "Night Shift."
It’s a really uplifting, angelic source of synths, with bass and drum lines that don’t quite fit at first, but then come subtly into synch and the head bobbing unequivocally begins. It’s undeniable, the head bobbing influence of “Night Shift.”

That was so awesome, using the not-part-of-the-song laugh, which betrays, right there in plain English, how tongue-in-cheek these guys are sometimes, the laugh that suddenly lifts you up after that long menacing “Reevaluations,” and smoothly transitions into the positively lifting “Night Shift.”

But, the song gets boring quick, so they end it quick. Good choice, guys.

4th Track, “K Street,” has cool vocals. Vocorder, low and distorted. Low, droning, distorted bass. Drums processed and sounding sweet.

 “What’s your fucking problem?”

Fucking menacing. Like you’re walking thru Zozo on FF6. Holy crap, that was fast, we’re already into—

Track 5, “Backlash
FUCK YEAH! Some thrash! I have never heard Trans Am be this metal! The drums are right on, totally mimicking Lars Ulrich! Clearly this excites me. That’s some good shit right there. There are two simultaneous vocal lines going on, one mixed to the left and another mixed to the right. Then a pretty legitimately sweet guitar solo! He’s not an expert, but he knows all the right moves to pull.

It fades out pretty quick. That was fucking badass. They don’t pull any punches with “Backlash.”

Track 6, “Ice Fortress,” begins with a circular, rising pattern. Begins a lot like “Night Shift,” with drums and bass fading in behind a solid keyboard line. This is a pretty even-keel, trance-y, jazzy number. Makes me feel warm. The mix is really warm. Stimulating. Good music to work to. Not distracting. Engaging. Really interesting how the guitar and drums are all working together near the end, with that big, large, giant bass worm monster crawling back and forth in the mix, like the big black worm at the end of Portal’s video for “Curtain.”

Track 7, “Failure,” begins with drums. Synths. Cool menacing bass line. We’re back on K Street, it seems. Same feeling. We’re in a gang and we’re trying to get something nasty done. But what? The boys give you a feeling of swirling down into the bad place with “Failure.” Very dark. Very dark. Rainy. You’re shaking your head no as the camera pans out and fades to black.

Track 8, “I’ll Never.” Now I’ve seen this video something like a million times.

It’s so amazing—a complete concept, a full marriage of sound and video, conceptually and narratively. It’s got a Twin Peaks feel. A throwback to the Fifties. Slow. Takes its time. In no hurry. Full of love. The vocals are processed, so they don’t sound human. And in the video it looks like it’s not even Nathan Means’s hand holding the mic. He’s absolutely still, like a mannequin.

Then he drinks water three times and it’s hilarious. I also love the woman in this video. She’ll never get over him, either.

“I’ll Never” is the most romantic journey I’ve yet heard Trans Am attempt. It was weird at first, but my three-year-old girl really likes it. She calls him The Red Man.

The one thing I don’t understand is the shot of trash at the end. It’s really quick. Is it as obvious a point as it seems? “This video is really just trash?”

Track 9, “Megastorm.” Now I watched the video for this song first, and it kind of fell flat. The mix is a little flat. But when I heard “Megastorm” thru headphones, it really hit me. The Megastorm. The fullness of those distorted bass sounds, the epic scales they’re playing, the slow, sci-fi doom-ness of it all. It’s a really beautiful concept. It reminds me a lot of the track “Black Matter” from their last album, 2010’s “Thing.”

You just want to do a creepy dance to this song! It’s fucking sweet!

This album is purely enjoyable. The boys put a lot of work into it, and at this point in their band life, they know which pitfalls to avoid, and how to sound polished before even going in. it’s really cool stuff, really clean, really pure. Really creative, too. Trans Am can keep rocking this sound forever, I don’t care. It’s like I say about Deftones—they keep exploring the same sound, and they somehow keep making it more beautiful!

Speaking of which—

Track 10, “Insufficiently Breathless.” What a beautiful piece. The video is good, too. The acoustic guitar line that starts it out is something so big and beautiful and clean, straight out of the Seventies, with Cat Stevens and Simon & Garfunkle, but featuring a better mix with the technology of today.

Oh man, and the rising part. In the video, he’s climbing the hill. It’s so peaceful, so introspective. So, “We made it.”

Then. Gets darker. You can hear the downtuned his guitar. The chords get more minor, but still explorative, still unchained, still reaching, exploring the spaces it creates. The man is walking into the water and the credits are rolling, leaving you to wonder where it is he’s going. I bet he’s headed straight into space. Probably transcending his mortal body.

And with these boys, that’s not a far-off bet.

Some other good reviews of Volume X to explore:
Thrill Jockey
TransWorld SKATEboarding
Fractured Air

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pharell's "Happy" & Weird Al's "Tacky"

When I saw via Margaret Cho's Facebook post that Weird Al Yankovic had a new video coming out, I said, twingling my champagne glass full of grape juice next my pearls under mink, uh, scarf, "Dhauwling, I have got to see this."

Since it's another parody tune Weird Al released instead of his occasional orgasmic original work, this "Tacky" thing, I had to be sure I knew what he was parodying.

So lemme just post Pharell's "Happy" and then Weird Al's "Tacky" so you can do your research before the funny, too. And, as is my lot, I'll analyze both.

At first, I was really into it. I found myself thinking, 'Why would anyone want to make fun of this?'

When I saw Magic Johnson I got happy, for sure. But by the end of the video I was like, 'Enough with the happy already!'

At that point I was ready for someone to lambaste this, and Weird Al's version of silly was exactly the sort of silly I craved. I'm trying to formulate my prediction of his argument in advance of watching it.

Then the vision of Pharrell dancing in front of that choir in blue came to mind. The fact that they weren't the actual voices in the song means they were hired to pretend like they were singing. Then and now I kind of feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach.

Also, seeing Steve Carell in the school bus, not engaging the camera and singing along, but trying to do his own silly thing, kind of ruined it for me. I couldn't get over that image.

The 'regular people' in the video did charm me, but now that I think about it they were probably all hired actors as well. I mean right? This is a song from Despicable Me 2. A fucking sequel. Why do movie companies churn out sequels? They make money, they get butts in the seats.

The Atlas Shrugged and Lord of the Rings movies are different because the movies all correspond to pre-written epic fiction. Terminator 2 and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey are different because they surpass their predecessors in overall quality.

Be excellent to each other and party on, dude. Okay, Keanu.

Okay, so instead of posting "Tacky" on here, I'll just link to it. Why not post the video here instead of making you click on something to go to Nerdist and watch the damn thing? Because it auto-plays. You'd be opening my blog, and some damn fucking music would be playing, and your speakers would be turned up, and you'd be in your office, or at home when other people are sleeping. And I care about you, dear reader. I care. About. You.

So, again, just go here and watch the damn thing. The "Tacky" thing. I'm so irritated about auto-playing internet videos that now I don't feel like writing down my analysis anymore. I haven't watched it yet, so I'll now do so and just fill my face with cheese puffs and let my kids throw half-eaten peaches under the radiator.

Okay I just watched it and it's so good. Kind of bad too, but all good. Love that it's a single shot. That must have taken forever to pull off. I'd like to see some outtakes from that, like having the cameraman moving exactly the same, doing the same long single shot, but with all the actors fucking up their dances and lip-synchs.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sunn O))) live in 2014, upcoming collaboration with Scott Walker

There's news afoot from Seattle drone metal band Sunn O))). They're definitely still active, though they try to remain as mysterious and low-key (pun) as possible. It's what I love about them.

Here's an excerpt from a recent live show. Still noisy, still metal.

Here's the Sunn O))) Bandcamp page. Everything they've ever released, including albums and rehearsal demos, are available for streaming and purchase. It's quite nice for the hardcore fan like myself.

I'm currently listening to and loving their collaboration with Ulver, entitled Terrestrials. It really does sound like a follow-up to Monoliths and Dimensions, their 2009 album that lifted them above the constraints of the drone metal genre they created with the band Earth, and into an experimental, orchestral, and collaborative sound.

So. Scott Walker, the guy who released Bish Bosch in 2012, that weird-ass-but-still-listenable album of vibrato, one-tone vocals meandering over minimalist beats, conjuring all kinds of images, ultimately culminating in one of the most original releases I've ever heard, is collaborating with Sunn O))).

They've only released this above image, and 4AD is handling whatever form it will take. Could be an album, could be a smoke-machine-as-album.

Here's a Pitchfork article with more info on Scott O))), and here's a Pitchfork review of Walker's 2013 reissue of his first records. The review delves into a short biography of the man that I thought was very well-written.

Here's an article from The Guardian about the collaboration.

I'm excited for what the future may bring with Sunn O)))! This is a band that gets me excited. They always collaborate with the right people, making art more for the sake of brain stimulation than profit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Listening Material: Weakling, Mitochondrion

Last night I stayed up late watching live Portal videos on YouTube, and then I watched their Larvae video. Scary.

That band is blowing my mind lately. I love The Curator's masks and costumes, the Pope, Clock, and Wizard. I never understood them until watching them play live, paying special attention to where their fingers go on their fretboards.

YouTube sensed I was gonna be into Mitochondrion, a similar band, which I've posted below, but first let's put this Weakling album up here, a video I found afterwards.

All these two bands are not connected in any way; I just discovered them at the same time, and I think a fan of one would like the other.

Weakling - Dead As Dreams [Full - HD]

Weakling is a black metal band that my guitarist in Freeze told me I should listen to since we both love Wolves in the Throne Room. Hailing from San Francisco, they recorded their lone album, Dead as Dreams, in 1998.

Mitochondrion - Parasignosis [Full - HD]

Mitochondrion is a Victoria, B.C. power trio, and Parasignosis (2011) is their second full-length, out via Profound Lore Records.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Soundgarden's Superunknown 20th Anniversary Performance was super cool

June 2, 2014, Soundgarden played their 1994 album Superunknown in its entirety. It was awesome! Can you believe it was twenty years ago this was released?

Let me start with my favorite song off the album, consequently track 1. They play it awesomely. Cornell gives a corny introduction and then they rock it hard.

Mm. Tasty. Superunknown is the best Soundgarden album ever, and for them to be playing it live really hits me right ... here, ya know? They do it so faithfully too, track by track, album order. Really cool. Totally fan-service and I'm eating it up.

Try this one, too:



Thank god for you, YouTube user mfc172. Here's another one of your stunning captures:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nirvana's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction last night was awesome

First of all, isn't the speed at which news is released great these days?

Great story BTW, Jim Farber. Excellent and trained is your hand in music journalism, distant Jedi colleague.

So, last night, Nirvana was part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2014 Induction Ceremony. The band members and a few family members of Kurdt Cobain's came onstage to say a few words, as well as Michael Stipe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Have a Nice Life's "Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate" is a strange trip thru the woods

This is a cool avant garde video from Have a Nice Life. The song is called "Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate."

Definitely starts with the Lynch Noise, then moves into some kind of light ... music on bass plus keyboards and other sounds, then.. I don't know, man. I don't know what to call this.

That's why it intrigues me.

Here, watch it. Via The Flenser.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rotting Hills "Seventh Prayer" Video & Song Analysis

So guys, go to Cvlt Nation's page here and listen to this four-drummer black metal thing and watch the brilliant accompanying video. Very satisfying. It's a video that stays with you after you watch it.

The band is Rotting Hills. I'd never heard of them before today. But today they blew me away. Four drummers. You read that right. There is a thunderous drum sound on this thing. It is monstrous.

It's additionally a well-produced sound. When you think #blackmetal, you think terrible production, punk-speed tempos, pretty simple guitar riffs, and the shriek right? Boom, you've got black metal from your friend's basement and it sounds like ass but they HOLD to that sound. It turns away all posers.

Rotting Hills' sound, on the song "Seventh Prayer" anyway, is meditative; it begins slowly and lures you in.

So don't be alarmed if you're not a black metal fan. The sound is atypical of black metal. I don't know what else to call it, however. The music itself is cinematic, and didn't they do a live score recently as well? Videography is made for this music, and they've got a sweet final product on their hands right now.

One of the drummers directed it too. It's fully a Rotting Hills presentation.

Here's that same link again. It's currently only available on Cvlt Nation.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Behemoth - new video for "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel"

I like when the song title comes into play at the end.

Behemoth's album "The Satanist," where BYTG comes from, will be released early February. It comes after frontman Nergal dealt with cancer in 2010 and 2011. He tried to have every sound on the album come out of him 'naturally.' Nothing fabricated. Though it's a pretty meaningless way of describing the abstract creative process within one person's brain, I gotta say, I think he did it.

I watched a few videos of him talking about himself and the album from Blabbermouth, via @BLABBERMOUTHNET. They're a great metal publication and their coverage is great.

But Nergal himself I have a few personal qualms with. In one video he's sitting in front of a shitload of new, awesome guitars he could never use to all their fullest potentials, and I thought, "Asshole." Didn't even watch the whole video. It was a big DON'T CARE AVOID GET AWAY moment for me. He also uses sexual analogies too much for my taste, talking about a "giant phallus" raping what he doesn't like about society. Pretty harsh, man. Can't we resolve our differences thru dialogue?

Our favorite artists can't always be the best speakers, can they?

Can men ever stop thinking about dick?

BYTG Video Critique: the problems in the world that Nergal has a big problem with have more to do with men than women, right? When have women ever started wars or enslaved people? If I were making the video, I would have changed the main character to a man.

The deflowering of women is old news. It's been done to death. The de-flowering of men, however, is fertile ground ... hahahah haaaa.

The director of this video did a wonderful job, I love the use of animals and humans. I love the myriad forms the woman takes by the end of it. I love the cleansing and dark-evolutionary aspect. Along with the music, the video makes an amazing statement.

It's heavy imagery, you know? The B&W-ness gives it that time-worn feeling. For a song Nergal says he wrote naturally, it's pretty complex, probably harkening back to his 'old' songwriting style more than he envisioned he would.

If Nergal could have learned all these lessons he said he learned before his life flashed before his eyes, maybe we'd already have some pretty progressive Behemoth albums to listen to. Behemoth's never been one of my favorite bands, but I really like BYTG as a song.

I don't know what the lyrics are saying, though, probably a bunch of shit about dicks busting through buildings like on Legend of the Overfiend.

Nergal's spirit animal