Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Eva Luna" by Moonshake.

The song "City Poison" had me at hello. This record, and I believe quite possibly this entire band is probably (to use the words of Tim Rogers: (in reference to The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link)) largely misunderstood, and violently awesome. The creativity and sheer honesty coming out of this record are nearly brutal. Even the more atmospheric numbers simmer just at the edge of boiling. The male vocalist almost reminds me of a more intense John Flansburgh, and the songs accompanying him are raucous, heartfelt, and mostly serious. The female vocalist was also excellent, mainly due to her understated, but unmistakable character. The production is perfect. Roomy and immediate all at once. These are wildly artistic and poetic people, who also have an impeccable ear for how things should sound post-production. That's a nearly impossible combination, and I can't stress enough how much honesty plays a part in making this record such an over the top success for me. They aren't selling anything. It just seemed to get better and better as I progressed through it. It restored my faith in genuinely creative rock as art. Listen to this record just as soon as humanly possible.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Thumper" by Thumper.

I'll start with the positive, and work my way toward the negative. I'm trying to curb my Haterade intake as of late. Here goes. Excellent drumming. This guy has finesse, and tact. Excellent bass playing. (See: Excellent drumming.) Middling guitar work. Mostly the thin tone was to blame for its unremarkable nature. At times the guitar literally sounded exclusively like static.


But there was also some pretty uninteresting songwriting going on, which inevitably worked against them. Still, a lot could have been fixed with better production.


Below average, bordering on somewhat annoying vocals. This person is not a singer in the sense that one should be said singer. Very plain, and slightly flat, with no noticeable training. Lots of heart though, so a small plus there. Had she some character (a la Phil Elvrum, or Tim Kinsella for that matter), then that would be a different story. Wouldn't it? Yes. Yes, it would.

Patently stupid cover art. I know this shouldn't affect my impression of the band's performances, but it did. I'm only human. (There is only so much poor production/seemingly aimless songwriting/idiotic cover art one can handle, after all.) I will say this: "There was immense talent squandered here in the forms of the bassist and drummer." There. I said it. Hence the quotation marks. The two of them are hopefully off in some awesome other three piece band, tearing it up, so to speak. This proposed band would be called "Slammer".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Optimistic Fool" by The Pooh Sticks.

The Pooh Sticks are a band that are in love with melody. In the same vein as early '90s acts such as The Posies, or Gin Blossoms, they craft a style of Americana, fun, upbeat rock that just didn't linger on the musical scene for very long. There are a lot of harmonies flying around on this record, whether it be guitars or vocals, which only adds to their sincerity. The lyrics are clever, and mostly memorable. "Prayer for My Demo" stood out in this regard. While all these factors seemed to mesh well in execution, and production, The Pooh Sticks still seemed to fall flat for me somewhere. If I had to, I'd trace it back to the guitars simply strumming the chord progressions. There was too little articulation, so the songs seemed indistinct. A more deliberate approach to playing the songs (adding some melodic riffs, build-ups, stops, etc.) would have benefitted the record greatly, but even then, I get the feeling I wouldn't have enjoyed it enough to hear it again. Although strongly melodic and well done in general, it was still simply a type of music I find struggling to hold my attention.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Late Bloom" by Mavis Piggott.

This is an E.P. boasting 6 songs that fall somewhere between Grunge and Indie Rock. Mavis' vocals are without a doubt quite Indie, and there are some interesting guitar ideas at work, but the big problem with this record is that the production is raw to a fault. Everything sounds unmixed in general and it really holds the record back in a big way. You're basically just hearing all the same instruments with all the same settings running through six song ideas. One might think that this simply constitutes a "style" of sorts, but I really think it would have behooved the artist to at least experiment with some textures to help enhance the songs' individual strengths. All in all this record just wasn't really my scene, but I heard some potential.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"500 Miles to Glory" by Various Artists.

This record is a compilation of Punkabilly bands, mostly rocking out about cars, or racing and debauchery in general. It was a pretty fun listen, honestly. I'm not really into anythingbilly, but I'd probably listen to this in the garage while working on my car, or even while driving really fast. I particularly like the little soundbites that sounded like they were recorded sometime in the '50s in between each song about the Indy 500. They gave the record a genuine sense of raw nostalgia, and really helped move the album along. Not too shabby for a genre in which I have no interest musically.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smells Like the Nineties Part 3: "Whatever and Ever, Amen..." by Ben Folds Five.

This one was kind of a sleeper hit. Anyone that bothered to pick up the record after hearing the runaway hit "Brick", were rewarded with a simple, but beautifully recorded and intimate affair. Ben Folds is an artist. Pure and simple. He's proven that he can make a solid record all by his lonesome, but never on this scale, and never without the help of the incredible gentlemen, Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee. Andy Wallace is again at the helm of this record, but his production is nothing like that on Grace. It's sparse and simple, but not retro or lo-fi. Just dry. The three part harmonies and lush chords are reminiscent of Todd Rundgren and even Queen at times, but they never sound tacky or nostalgic. Just good. Very good. Their subsequent, and final release, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, trumps this record in literally every way, but they never would have gotten there without taking this road, and anyone who likes music was glad they did.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Izzy Goes to Bollywood.

So I finally "experienced" Slumdog Millionaire. It was cute, but alarmingly formulaic for this day and age. I kept expecting some horrible thing to happen all the way up until the closing scene (which was followed, inevitably by an obligatory dance sequence) to show how life doesn't work out like in the movies. The directing was direct, all right, to the point of making me feel spoon fed by what the scenes had to convey. The soundtrack was ineffective, and ultimately, distracting. Every time a song would kick in, it was jarring, and not complimentary to what was happening on-screen. Here's the bottom line: Were it the exact same movie full of Caucasians, no one would have given a crap.