Aside

11 Months of Video Gaming

Dec : 22 hours

  • 9 – Nintendo Land
  • 8 – New Super Mario Bros U
  • 2 – Skylanders Giants

NintendoLand

Jan : 48 hours

  • 16 – Darksiders II
  • 15 – Skylanders Giants
  • 6 – Little Inferno

DarksidersIIDeath

Feb : 30 Hours

  • 7 – Trine 2
  • 6 – Darksiders II
  • 5 – The Cave

Trine2trio

Mar : 35 Hours

  • 20 – Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • 4 – Trine 2
  • 4 – Lego City Undercover

Rathalos

Apr : 66 Hours

  • 53  – Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • 10 – Lego City Undercover
  • 1 – Rayman (Demo)

LegoCityChase

May : 57 Hours

  • 34 – Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • 10 – Lego City Undercover
  • 3 – Super Metroid

SuperMetroid

Jun : 30 Hours

  • 7 – Nintendo Land
  • 3 – Skylanders Giants
  • 2 – Lego City Undercover

GillGrunt

Jul : 39 Hours

  • 13 – Earthbound
  • 11 – Nintendo Land
  • 6 – Pikmin 3

EarthboundHeroes

Aug : 50 Hours

  • 12 – Pikmin 3
  • 7 – The Wonderful 101 (Demo)
  • 5 – The Cave

Pikmin3Brittany

Sep  : 57 Hours

  • 41 – The Wonderful 101
  • 6 – Dungeons and Dragons : Chronicles of Mystara
  • 5 – Rayman Legends

Wonderful101

Oct : 58 Hours

  • 19 – The Wonderful 101
  • 18 – The Wind Waker HD
  • 8 – Rayman Legends

 WindWaker

Heavy Metal MixTape 2012

2012 marks the third year of Heavy Metal Mix Tapes. Here are the pages for 2010 and 2011. I wanted to try something different this year.

The first goal was to avoid my usual favorites. No Mastodon. No Opeth. No ISIS. No Arch Enemy. No Judas Priest. No Dio. NO MEGADETH!!! This mostly works out, with only a handful of regulars slipping through.

The other big idea was to try and order the songs chronologically. As you’ll see below, we get 4 or 5 songs from each decade. This made it harder sequence the songs, but on the upside it’s a nice evolutionary journey over the two hours.

1. Mystery Song (1966)

Some of you may know why this is here … *ooooohhhh* … *mystery song* …

2. Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1970)

According my self imposed rules, I was avoiding bands picked in previous years. It only took till song #2 for me to break that rule. Woo!

Once I committed to the chronological play list I simply couldn’t ignore Black Sabbath as the first proper Metal track.

I nearly went for ‘War Pigs‘, but ‘Paranoid‘ establishes it’s momentum immediately and worked best to follow the mystery track.

3. Black Dog – Led Zeppelin (1971)

There are several “Big Names” who make one of these playlists for the first time. I thought I’d add in one of the biggest names in Hard Rock.

Led ZeppelinIV‘ is a mythic album. You know, it has THE song on it. There were several tracks I could have picked, such as … you know…the aforementioned THE song. Instead I selected ‘Black Dog‘ as it’s very riff-centric.

4. Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith (1975)

The track ‘Round and Round’ from ‘Toys In The Attic‘ is a much more obviously Heavy Metal than this track. Yet it was cruisey vibe of ‘Sweet Emotion‘ that made it my favorite song from the album. It’s got a central guitar riff  that kinda qualifies it as Hard Rock.

5. God of Thunder – Kiss (1976)

I’ll be honest, I don’t particularly like Kiss. Kinda like Lady Gaga, they’ve got this memorable fashion sense, but only a handful of good songs. ‘I Was Made For Loving You‘ and ‘Rock and Roll All Night‘ are fun but silly.

Destroyer‘ is regarded as there best studio album, so that’s the one I picked up. I need to spend more time with the album, but ‘God of Thunder’ caught my attention immediately. It’s got that weird chatter of children and a heavier groove. The lyrics are silly, but I like the track filling out the 70s here.

6. Bomber – Motörhead (1979)

Motörhead have a bunch of good songs that all kinda sound the same. At least that one “song” that they do know, happens to be pretty good.

7. For Whom The Bell Tolls – Metallica (1984)

Finally, Metallica make an appearance.


8. Jesus Saves – Slayer
 (1986)

Slayer fall into that category of metal which appeals becasue of its excess. This is blistering fast music, with wild guitar solos and explicit lyrics. Unlike a lot of subsequent Death Metal bands, the lyrics are relatively understandable making the gruesome subject matter all the more unavoidable.

I put this album on when I need to get something done in a hurry.


9. Nighttrain – Guns N Roses
 (1987)

Some Glam Metal was needed at this point

10. I Am the Law – Anthrax (1987)

I saw the new Judge Dredd movie the other day and enjoyed it immensely. KArl Urban does a great job making a ‘likeable’ character out of such a fascist uber-cop. It was also crazy violent. The closest thing to it is the original 80s Robocop.

“Respect the badge. He earned it with his blood. Fear the gun. Your sentence may be death because, I am the law!. And you won’t fuck around no more!”

11. Suite Sister Mary – Queensrÿche (1988)

In the absence of Dream Theater, here is the epic Prog-Metal entry.

The plot for this album is crazy. It’s got political uprisings, mind-controlled assassains and drugs dealing nuns.

It’s a weird mess, but I can’t help be swept up by over the 10 minutes.

12. Last – Nine Inch Nails (1992)

Welcome to the 90s! Ah, the good old days when it was cool to be angry.

I’m on the record as a huge NIN fan. This song was never a particular favorite. However, it made an appearance of the credits of the recent film Cabin In The Woods where it was totally, f*cking awesome. I’d like to think the song nicely parallels the subtext of that film. Discuss…

13. 50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up) – Kyuss (1992)

‘Blues for the Red Sun’ is a great album. It kinda rocks a long like Metallica in some ways, but is thick like Black Sabbath and yet has cruisey, spacey sections too. It’s a foundational album in what’s known as Stoner Metal.

This song is not a single. It starts fast paced and churns through a few verses before heading out for an extended trip into the desert.

14. Wildhoney / 15. Whatever That Hurts – Tiamat(1994)

Scandinavian bands are rare in this years list, with only Amon Amarth keeping Tiamat company. I don’t have much to say about them other than Wildhoney is critically acclaimed as a weird prog album. It starts off with a great bit of natural sounds leading into some Gothic / Doom Metal (Or apparently even Death-Doom if you want to get crazy with the sub-genres).

It’s good that while America was stumbling along, on the verge of plunging into Nu-Metal, Europe was off doing interesting things in the Black, Doom and Symphonic Metal space.

16. After The Flesh – My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (1994)

From a sequencing perspective, this was the hardest song to pick in the playlist. ‘Whatever That Hurts‘ finishes with a mesmerising wall of sound and ‘Digging the Grave‘ hits top speed in an instant. Industrial Music seemed to be enough of a circuit breaker between the two. This was nearly a Fear Factory song, but I don’t know the ‘Demanufacture‘ album well enough to pick a song. Ultimately I went back to an old favorite.

Say this with me… The Crow Soundtrack is one of the best soundtracks ever!

This is the CD that (along with the Triple J compilation ‘Elevenintroduced me to heavier music. The Nine Inch Nails track in particular hooked me, but there are so many good songs from artists like The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine, Rollins Band and Pantera. The MLWTTKK song was my first introduction to Industrial music. Guitars and Techno and Angst! What’s not to love?

So check out this song, then go check out the soundtrack.

17. Digging The Grave – Faith No More (1995)

One my favourite songs of all time. I once improvised my own version of the lyrics starting with the basis of “I caught a trout. It’s in my mouth”. Good times!

18. Ratamahatta – Sepultura (1996)

The album ‘Roots‘ is where the South American band Sepultura goes and makes an album with an indigenous Amazon tribes. IIt’s a completely awesome idea for an album!

In actuality, I find the the album a bit hit and miss. But when it hits it nails this insane, unique mix of rhythm and heaviness. An easy choise to put on the playlist.

19. Feiticeira – Deftones (2000)

Nominally a Nu-Metal band, the Deftones are a quantum shift away from bands like Limp Bizkit. Their music is difficult for me to really enjoy. Yet it’s an album I respect and want to commit more time to exploring. The vocals in particular have a really ‘sour’ tone which is off-putting but unique.

I nearly picked a longer track (Knife Party), but I felt a shorter, more straightforward song would let listeners (including mysefl) get a flavour for the music without overwhelming.

20. A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation – Trivium (2005)

Trivium’s ‘Ascendancy‘ has the dubious reputation of the ‘Album I Gave Up On Quicker Than Any Other‘. On first listen it sounded like a cacophony of noise.  Were’ not talking noise like Dillinger Escape Plan “I dare you to finish this song” kind of thing. More of a “We’re a try-hard Metalcore band who love Metallica solos” disappointment.

At some point, things fell into place and I learnt to love it. This song in particular rockets along. The shouting/growling is still a bit weird, but as with most Death Growls, they become an  acquired taste.

21. Ocean Planet – Gojira (2005)

Due to the following song, (see below) I had to spend some time picking exactly which Gojira track to pick. I would have loved to pick ‘Heaviest Matter In The Universe‘ which is an all time classic. But sandwiched between Trivium and DragonForce, I needed something slower and less heart-attack-inducing. Ultimately I picked ‘Ocean Planet‘ as it has more of a crunching pace.

(The good thing about picking from a Gojira album is usually there’s no dud choice.)

22. Through the Fire and Flames – DragonForce (2006)

lol.

I mean, just listen to it.

Speed! Power! Metal!

23. Union Black  / 24. Get It Now – Skindred (2011)

Another difficult choice for the playlist. The DragonForce track is so exhausting I really needed something to stop and allow everyone to catch their breath. The two tracks here are not consecutive on the album, but I think they work well together anyway.

Skindred are a band who I loved immediately on hearing their single ‘Warning’. While they are Nu-Metalish there’s also the mix of electronica, Reggae and plain old enthusiasm that wins me over.

25. A Beast Am I – Amon Amarth (2011)

Viking Metal!!!

Well, actually not really. Viking Metal is usually reserved for Black Metal bands who are anti-Christian and pro-Pagan religions.

Amon Amarth are just a band whiose songs are all about North mythology. They’re good, but not overly unique. DethklokArch Enemy and other Melodic Death Metal bands are all similar in style. Other tracks on the album are more obviously ‘Viking-esque’. This track felt more catchy, so I went with it.

NOte: There’s a bit of spacey instrumental at the end. Not sure why that’s there. But since we are nearly at the end it’s ok if we relax a bit.

(Unfortunately nobody told Gojira to relax…)

26. The Axe – Gojira (2012)

Ocean Planet‘ was crunching, ‘The Axe‘ is pummelling.

And yes,there are two Gojira songs on this playlist. It’s my play list, I can do what I want!

They are my defining band for 2012. I saw them live at Soundwave then promptly bought all their albums. Maybe not my favourite band ever, but certainly  in my top 10.

Rock out, you French eco-metal maniacs!

27. Collapse – Baroness (2012)

One of the more obviously ‘Not Really Metal’ songs on this list, I’ll still include it as I bought it in the ‘Heavy Metal’ isle in the CD store. And previous Baroness albums certainly have been Metal.

A much more quiet track to finish with and I must say I find it depressing. On the upside it has reflective and thoughtful quality.

As an aside, Baroness had a horrific bus crash earlier in the year. So while many of the songs on this album are melancholy, I find the band inspiring in the way they are making the most of their future, despite the hand fate dealt them.

Heavy Metal MixTape 2011

It’s been a fantastic year for music purchases. During Christmas 2010 I threw $200 at the local retailers and came away with a ton of great CDs. Now it’s time to celebrate the last 12 months with a mix tapes for all my friends who are willing to ignore the implicit minor copyright infrindgements.

Like last year, my goal has been to get a good thorough mix of styles. I’ve focussed on the albums I’ve bought in 2011. So here’s the mixtape!

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Hip Hop Mix Tape – Part Two of Two

Here’s part two of the hip hop of review.

I’m already reflecting on my comments from last entry. I react positively to an interesting structure and a song that’s ‘going somewhere’ or building up to something. For rap there’s a mental adjustment to be made. Often it’s about enjoying the churning, looping beats and the rapping as they exist in the moment. Hopefully I articulated that point in way that makes sense.

Also, lyrics are always a lesser concern for me. My love for music is for the music. Ideas and stories are great, but they can never take first place for me.

Hopefully that gives some context to where I’m coming from. Anyway, on with the review…

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Hip Hop Mix Tape – Part One of Two

So my friend Kat made a mix tape of Hip Hop songs. I’ve been listening to them for the last few days. So here’s a quick take on what I liked and what I didn’t. Here’s the first 13 of the 26 tracks (in random order)!

Disclaimer: Obviously this is just my opinion and everyone is free to have their own opinions. Music in particular is very subjective and people can like all sorts of different things. So if I bag a song out, take it with a grain of salt 🙂

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A Very Heavy Metal Christmas Playlist

This year for christmas, I decided to go and buy myself a whole bunch load of Heavy Metal CDs (technically it’s a gift from my wife). Name dropping some of the bands I’m looking at on Twitter, a friend asked if I could make a mix-tape.

Now I couldn’t use the new CDs (they get opened xmas day), but I jumped into my existing metal catalog and put together 2 hours of music.

If you are interested, here’s the songs and my thoughts about them.

1. Grace – Lamb Of God

This song has a great little acoustic intro that leads into a blistering metal track. This is a surprisingly common tactic for opening song. The most classic example is Battery which opens Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Grace is an overall great song with a nice rolling-up-and-down melody and solid guitar solo toward the end.

2. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse – Dimmu Borgir

Starting with some bombastic, symphonic music that would be more ay home in a movie soundtrack, this is actually the only Black Metal on the list. Black Metal vocals tend to be of the more weird variety, such as the whipser-to-shriek of Cradle of Filth. In this case, it’s a weird vomitous sound. Fun!

I picked the song cause it’s batshit insane and completely over the top, yet strangely accessible.

3. Gold Teeth on a Bum – The Dillinger Escape Plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan are one of my favorite bands of the moment and this being one of my favorite songs from their recent album, Option Paralysis. It’s a not-very-metal sounding song. There’s bits of both punk and Nine Inch Nails in there.. Nervertheless I’ll call it Metal since I bought it from the Metal aisle in Belco JB Hi-Fi (Controversially, it’s in the Punk aisle in Civic JB Hi-Fi!)

4. Jawbreaker – Judas Priest

The first three songs all featured some harsh vocals (snarling, retching and shouting respectively) so next I picked a classic song with clean vocals.

Judas Priest are one of the great discoveries of my Heavy Metal experience. Featuring iconic singing in the form of Rob Halford, great guitar solos and Speed-Demon/Hitting-The-Highway type attitude that makes it good to drive to. Jawbreaker features all these elements and an opening line that always gets me.

5. Rumors of War – High On Fire

6. Dii – High On Fire


High on Fire is a relatively new band for me and I haven’t absorbed the album Death Is The Communion completely yet. The two songs I’ve included here did catch my attention. The first track has vocals that are the most weathered and gnarly sounding this side of Lemmy Kilmister. It’s thick like Sabbath but has a punchy, forward momentum like Mastodon.

The second track is an instrumental but the connection between the two was too good to pass up. It’s a nice slow and steady piece with an exotic feel. It was also good to have an instrumental in there to break up the overall playlist.

7. Thieves – Ministry

Theives is on the Brutal Legend sound track and I always loved it when it popped up. It’s still in the realms of Metal, but the sound and textures are so different to most of the other tracks. My overall strategy for the playlist was diversity, so I’m really happy with the placement of this track.

8. Neither Shape Nor Shadow – Be’Lakor

Be’Lakor are an Australian band and their album was a great surprise when I found it. While I love this song, I do wonder if perhaps one of the other tracks would fitted better. It’s reasonably long at nearly 8 minutes, which possibly is a problem when we hit the next track.

Despite this, I still love it for it’s melodic, death and progressive metal mix. Anything I can do  to draw attention to the band is a good thing.

9. A Nightmare To Remember – Dream Theater

Running for sixteen minutes and 11 seconds, this is the longest song on the playlist and also one of the longest songs I own. (For the record, the longest song I have is Rush’s 2112). I’ve been a little concerned that these really long tracks somewhat dominate the playlist.

As I listened to this track on my jog I became less worried. It’s less 1 overall track and more like 4 tracks in a row by a single band. Plus I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include a Dream Theatre epic. This one is about a childhood memory of being in a car crash and it has just about everything you could want in it (plus some more).

10. Holy Diver – Dio

Much like Judas Priest earlier, I felt some classic metal was needed to mix things up. In this spot I originally had one of the lesser known tracks off the Holy Diver album. Eventually I decided the singing was stronger and more iconic with the title track. Plus it has those nut-ball lines about riding a tiger.

11. Snowblind – Black Sabbath

Double whammy of classic Metal! I wanted some Sabbath in here, but chose to avoid the big three hits off Paranoid (War Pigs, Paranoid and Iron Man). This track is from the Vol. 4 album and it really caught my attention. I like the classic sludge sound but it’s got a great atmosphere in here too. The lyrics aren’t as bad as some other tracks and Ozzy sounds fantastic. A real favorite of mine.

One unfortunate aspect about this track is the volume seems down a little. I actually went and re-ripped it from the CD to see if I could fix it, but it’s still there. I suppose that’s just how they mixed it. So turn it up!

12. Naked Burn – Mastodon

Did you turn up the volume for Snowblind? Cause now you’re gonna get smacked in the head by the awesome Mastodon riif that opens Naked Burn! This one will grab your attention whether you like it or not. A nice increase in pace over the last few tracks.

This song is the embodiment of forward momentum. My minds imagines a boat skimming and surging across the water (probably looking for a white whale). Parts seem upbeat and then in a moment turn darker. I love it! Absolutely classic album and this is one of the better songs.

13. Silverwing – Arch Enemy

Keeping things moving I have a thumping Arch Enemy track. Front and centre is the legendary death growling female vocalist Angela Gossow.

This is a really precise track in all aspects of its production. After a fun introduction, it heads into some crunching brutal verses, before opening up the melody with the chorus. There’s a live version I like even more, but I wanted to keep the list to studio albums.I have no problem with this songs placement, but in hindsight I wish I’d thrown in a few more shorter tracks to balance out the big ones.

14. Deliverance – Opeth

Opeth remain one of the most awe inspiring bands in metal. This songs races out of the blocks and starts pulverising immediately. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s death growl sounds fantastic and the fact that it is equally matched by his beautiful clean singing is brain shattering.

This track is fairly representative of the diversity in Opeth’s music with calm, doomy and other progressive elements. It ends with an extended instrumental that borders on repetitious, but can also be mesmerizing.

15. Five Magics – Megadeth

I wanted to include this because it’s personal favorite. It’s got silly singing and lyrics, but great music. Unfortunately I think it tips the playlist a little too much into the realm of progressive. Especially following Opeth, I’m not sure if a more punchy track would have served the overall flow better than another ponderous guitar and drums soundscape. However listening to it just this very moment, it is effective in snapping things back into focus after the long wind down of Deliverance.

As someone pointed out to me, it’s one of the few Metal soings that features the word Wyvern in the lyrics.

16. Hyperdrive! – Devin Townsend Project

The least Metal sounding tack on the list, this comes from the particularly strange Devin Townsend album Addicted! (his exclamation mark, not mine). Hevy Devy himself described it as Meshuggah meets the Vengaboys. It’s one of three tracks on the list with a female vocalist and is quite gorgeous. I picked it cause I thought it’s a great example of how far the elements of metal could be stretched and still make fantastic music.

17. Declaration – Killswitch Engage

Shouting! Killswitch Engage are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. They have a shouty-verse-clean-chorus gig going on that’s quite listenable but also feels a bit undecided. Is it metal or is it pop punk? Strangely enough I love it all the same.

This song is probably a bit more on the shouty end of things. I love the build up over the first half of the track leading to the big “Let this be the day of my declaration!”.

18. Dethharmonic – Dethklok

Ahh Dethklok. Perhaps the toughest choice in the whole list. It could have been Mermaider is the funniest track (being about murderous mermaids) and is also good musically (Hatred? Check!). Thunderhorse is perhaps my favourite piece of music, but is virtually an instrumental. Instead I picked the symphonic parody (both of Symphonic Black Metal bands and Metallicas S&M) Detharmoinc.

I like the drama in the song, culminating in the ridiculous line “Prepare the laser beam…”. The solo is also quite nice. The clincher was a knew it segued nicely into theme song.

19. Deththeme – Dethklok


20. Hallowed Be Thy Name – Iron Maiden

If anything, I knew I could finish the playlist strongly. Indeed, Heavy Metal has a plethora of epic finishing songs. I considered a Machine Head song (A Farewell to Arms) but it’s a bit aggressive and didn’t seem to rest well. Instead I chose one of my all time favorite Metal songs in Iron Maiden’s closing track for Number of the Beast.

Hallowed Be Thy Name starts with a slow and dramatic build up. Even in the early sections, Bruce Dickinson’s singing is full of passion. Then he hit’s the long note at the end of “Time is running loooooow!” and the song hits full stride. With great riffs and an awesome ending section, this feels like a concert closer.

21.Weight – ISIS

Iron Maiden could have finished the playlist on it’s own, but I felt this was a good ‘epilogue’ song. It starts slowly from nothing and builds up the layers over a full 10 minute song. Hopefully this track when played through, the listener will be in a reflective mood about all the sorts of music they’ve just heard. I won’t try to describe it any more than that. Just give it a listen.

 

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the ready or if you are keen enough, listening to the songs yourself!

Musical Kaleidoscope : Infected Mushroom & Sonic Youth

My Musical Kaleidoscope!

The idea is:

  1. Friends, family and whoever throw out some album recommendations.
  2. I pick two, give them a spin and blog the result.

 

Legend of the Black Sharwama : by Infected Mushroom

Infected Mushroom is a band I had not heard of before. I’m not familiar with any of their previous albums, but this release does land fairly close to my musical sweet spot: techno/electronica with a hard edge. There are some guitars present, but this is predominantly dance music and with only hints of industrial and metal.

The first track is nice and exotic. There’s an oriental sounding instrument, some crunchy guitars, chopped up vocals and plenty of techno beats. It’s catchy, but the second track Sa’eed stands out even more. A quirky little start gives a taste of the vocals, before pulsing along to some solid techno. Then half way it breaks through into some clean singing, before suddenly soaring into the stratosphere. It’s got everything. Some nice piano followed by a prowling guitar and droning then back up into the ridiculously uplifting chorus. Awesome song

All the songs are quite catchy, but those with singing are more so. Guest singers Jonanthan Davis (of Korn) and Perry Farrell(of Janes Addiction) are present. Davis in particular is quite impressive with his range.

I’ve only touched on a fe, but there is a quirkiness and inventiveness present through the 12 songs . It’s all techno, but with a diverse pallet producing constantly interesting results. The band actually originate from Haifa in northern Israel. I’m not sure if this heritage contributes to the exotic nature of the music, but I’m sold.

The final track is a cover of Riders on the Storm (also done in techno). It’s pretty special. My favourite element is Jim Morrison’s vocals (I presume) being distorted as if he was being sucked through a dimensional vortex.

The short version.

So yes I liked this a lot. I do find 12 techno songs back to back a bit hard to take and that would be my only complaint.

 

Daydream Nation : by Sonic Youth


In 1996 I was 19. I bought a copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and started getting into Alternative Music in a big way.

In 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind, Smells Like Teen Spirit was #1 on Rage and 13 yr old me didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

And in 1988 I had no idea who Sonic Youth was, let alone anything about their album Daydream Nation. This situation mostly continued for the next 22 years. Along with bands like Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies, they seemed to be the older and influential, but less exciting Alternative music bands.

Discovering Sonic Youth.

Listening to the first four or so tracks, I felt very much at home with the music. Like a person I’ve just met, but felt I’ve known for years.

It’s guitar oriented music but certainly different from the Metal in the 80s. It has some punk energy, but is far more relaxed and breezy. Melody and pop elements are there, providing many of the albums sweetest catchy hooks. However as the guitars jangle along creating strange soundscapes I could sense of darker drama too. It’s also much faster and aggressive than I expected. From start to finish, I loved the music here.

The vocals are the element I have appreciated least. At times it compliments with a sour yell, but at other times it becomes more annoying. One of the singers(Lee Ranaldo) frankly cannot sing, sounding like a Bob Dylan impersonator. His songs were the low point for me.

The other offputting element is an intermittent “I’m so cool” element. Perhaps I’m reliving my frustrations at the pretentious art degree kids never talking to me. One reason I love Heavy Metal is it’s so straightforward, earnest and passionate. Sonic Youth sometimes touches on the bored/ironic/slacker vibe and it pushes me away.

I think I get it.

From what I’ve read, this is a landmark album and it sounds like it. I sense here the progenitor of the whole Alternative scene that would dominate the next 10 years. I suspect it’s probably not as simple as that, but it certainly feels like a big piece of modern guitar rock jigsaw puzzle has been filled in.

And regardless of its place in history, it’s flat out a good album too.

 

NEXT TIME!!!

I’ll be listening to…

  • Assuming I can find a copy, Billy Joel with An Innocent Man
  • Something else… a suggestion, please ? 🙂

Thanks to Ben and Steve for this weeks suggestions.

 

Musical Kaleidoscope : They Might Be Giants & Laura Marling

My Musical Kaleidoscope!

The idea is:

  1. Friends, family and whoever throw out some album recommendations.
  2. I pick two, give them a spin and blog the result.

It’s a brand new record for 1990…

The first album to talk about is Flood by They Might Be Giants.

I’m resisting the urge to fill this blog entires with non sequiturs. For the uninitiated, They Might Be Giants are silly. Not silly in a Weird Al Yankovich parody-song kid of fashion. The correct word is absurd.

This album features..

  • a song where a person yells “Minimum wage! Yee hah!” and groovy lounge/coyboy music plays for 40 seconds and then it ends.
  • the tale of Particle Man, Universe man, Person Man and the particularly grumpy Triangle Man
  • a confusing song about a person who is either dead and hasn’t done anything they want … or is possibly not dead and has nothing they want to do (I think).
  • my personal favorite ‘We Want A Rock’. It correctly explains that everybody wants a rock to wind some string around and/or prosthetic foreheads to put on their real heads.

During that latter song I literally Laughed Out Loud.

“Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion”

(Google that and see if you can find the Larson cartoon.)

The music for TMBG does feature accordions. I’ve never really seen myself as an accordion music fan. It’s not just this particularly member of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family that is an issue. The music simple is quite silly sounding.

There’s nasally singing which sometimes gets ramped up intentionally (see the ‘and’s in the middle of the song Dead). Also in the mix are a variety of guitars, some synthesiser beats/samples and other weird sounds (eg. the end of Hearing Aid).

However, at some point something clicked. I was convinced it was necessarily ‘good music’. Instead  was won over because it was fun and enjoyable music. There’s an infectious energy as it moves from one bizarre stylistic choice to another, all the while chattering along with strange tales of Sapphire Bullets of Love.

The alternative Alternative music.

This was a great album to listen to. Firstly it opened my mind a bit on what music I can get enjoyment out of, cause I did really enjoy this album

Secondly, it reminded me of when albums like this got national airplay. During the 90s the boundaries of genre were a bit looser. In my mind, Alternative music wasn’t synonymous with Grunge, it was literally the alternative to the established genres. Heavy songs, silly songs, rude songs, retro songs, whatever songs. Alternative music could simply be a silly song about Istanbul not being Constantinople.

<Thomas takes off nostalgia glasses>

I Speak Because I Can : by Laura Marling

The first thing to say is there was a major time lapse between this sentance and the last. My ears decided they wanted to ache constantly and I had to quit all music for a few weeks. Things are more tolerable now so I’ve returned to finish off things.

So here we have Laura Marling. After several listens it’s undeniable that there’s talent on display here. The lyrics are crafted with the care of poetry. Laura sings with a high degree of control over the words. She curls around vowels, pinches words for effect and sings clearly at other times. The impression is that of highly skilled craft.

The most noteable feature about the singing is, to borrow a phrase from some other reviews, Laura sings with a “wisdom beyond her years“. The reason people say that is Laura sounds like she’s 40 (and I thought she was 40 when I first heard the album)  while in actuality she’s 20.

I had a problem.

This is the point in the review where you get to agree with me, or say I’m being a close-minded idiot.

Can a 20 year old sing convincingly about regret and world weariness?

Johnny Cash can sing Hurt in his dying months and it’s emotionally devastating… but could Justin Beiber pull it off? (hint: No)

Listening to this album I felt torn…

On one hand, it’s just about the music.

I’ve previously stated how little I care about lyrics. It’s the music that matters, right?. Melody, rhythm, texture, technique. So if Laura Marling sounds good (which she does), who cares if she’s 20 or 12.

On the other hand, music is a statement by the artist.

Lately though, I’ve felt a stronger connection to music (and Art in general) as a statement by the artist. Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, was made following his separation from his wife. NIN’s Year Zero in the midst of Bush-era America. In some cases an album can be seen within a given context. This can and often does affect our interpretation of it.

When Laura Marling sings “Never rode my bike down to the sea/ never quite figured out what I believe” I tend to think … well, you’re only 20… surely you’ve still got time?

Ok… but the lyrics in Heavy Metal are ridiculous… is this criticism a little unfair?

Well, sorta. Yes I love Heavy Metal and yes the lyrics are ridiculous (often undecipherable). It’s not a problem for me on a Metal album as lyrics are hardly ever the main drawcard. Instead there’s always a catch riff or absorbing texture that feel’s like it’s ‘the point‘ of the music. With this folk album, if I do wonder what’s the point if the 20 year old singer has very little life experience to back up the songs.

In conclusion, yes this is a well made album by talented musicians. Unfortunately I had a hangup that dogged me the whole way. If you can put that to the side, I do think there’s a lot to like.

NEXT TIME!!!

Assuming my ears are up to the task, I’ll be listening to..

  • The trancey, metal weirdness of Infected Mushroom with Legend of the Black Shawarma
  • Alternative rock godfathers, Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation

Thanks to Sarah and Damien for this weeks suggestions.

Musical Kaleidoscope : Scissor Sisters & Sarah Blasko

My Musical Kaleidoscope!

The idea is:

  1. Friends, family and whoever throw out some album recommendations.
  2. I pick two, give them a spin and blog the result.

The Result: Your music sucks!

Just kidding 🙂 However, let me throw out a few caveats before I get into it

  • I’ll listen to the whole of the album, in order.
  • My goal is about 4 play throughs before blogging
  • I’ll keep an open mind regarding unfamiliar genres (or stuff I previously hated)

And finally, I hope no one gets upset if their favorite CD doesn’t win me over. It seems to me that Music, more than other mediums (movies/books/games) is a much more personal and subjective artform to appreciate.

Ta-Dah : The Scissor Sisters

The first album here may show up my lack of musical knowledge. I’m not particularly acquainted with the Bee-Gees, Elton John or any of the particular influences that may be informing the Scissor Sisters music. However, one review I read called it Disco-Vaudeville which works for me.

The album kicks off with three songs I recognized from the radio (or elsewhere): The mega hit single I Don’t Feel Like Dancing, the confusingly titled She’s My Man and the humorously morbid I Can’t Decide (if you should live or die). All are high-energy, catchy and dance-rific.

As proof, here’s a clip:

By the fourth high-energy, catchy and dance-rific song I felt a bit like the sugar binge was starting to turn sour. Luckily, it hits a couple of slower songs providing some some time to recover from the pizazz. The album structure is as follows…

PIZAZZ! – PIZAZZ! – PIZAZZ! – PIZAZZ! – chill – chill – PIZAZZ! – PIZAZZ! – PIZAZZ! – chill – PIZAZZ!

The music appeals to me a lot. It’s got piano, guitar, male vocals, female vocals, spacey sound effects, weird jazzy talking in the back ground. It’s always interesting, but is packed full of great catchy melodies too. Apart from two songs (Ooh & Paul McCartney) I essentially loved the whole album.

My Arch Nemesis… Sarah Blasko

A couple of years ago, I turned sour on Triple J and much of the music played on the station. I would call it ‘Indie’ music if I could find a satisfactory definition for the genre. (I get frustrated that it’s a term relating to not being on a major lable, yet also represents a certain type of sound). Anyway, Sarah Blasko is listen on Wikipedia as both as Indie Rock and Indie Pop. So in order to summarise my newfound hatred for Triple J, I became quite certain that… Sarah Blasko represents everything that is wrong with modern music.

What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have : Sarah Blasko

It’s pretty good.

Four songs in I was ready to eat my hat. Those first few songs are excellent. Opening track For You is electronic, strange and beguiling. I was reminded of Bjork and Radiohead. The influence of that latter band is also evident on the second track The Garden’s End.

The fifth song is the (relatively) hit single Planet New Year. I really struggled with this song. It’s an upbeat single that reminded me of the “Sarah Blasko represents everything that is wrong with modern music”. It jingle jangles along as generic Aussie Alt Rock Pop Song, a world away from the dark and strange initial tracks. On repeated playthroughs it became tolerable and not upbeat as it initially appears.

While the tracks surrounding it didn’t do much for me, I quite like Always On This Line with it’s peculiar melody. Hammer and Queen of Apology are tracks that I appreciate for their strange driving structures and interesting textures, but it’s more appreciation than enjoyment. Now’s a good time to mention that Queen of Apology and Albatross both contain references to the Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. I give Ms Blasko points for effort, though I prefer the Iron Maiden song.

So it appears that in fact Sarah Blasko does not represent everything that is wrong with modern music (…that must be Angus and Julia Stone). The album surprised me by being intriguing and well crafted throughout. It take a bit of patience and is not the radio-friendly faff I originally expected it to be. Having said that, it’s still fairly far removed from my natural musical inclinations (eg. music that kicks your arse) and I won’t be rushing out to by the complete collection of Blasko

Next Time:

I’ll be listening to..

  • The concentrated silliness of Flood by They Might Be Giants
  • Some newer type of folk with I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling.

Thanks to Bec and Cath for this weeks suggestions. Thanks to Ben for loaning me Blasko.