Archive | May, 2011

Day 92: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

31 May

Refugee

And it’s Dad-Rock Tuesday once again.  This week, I’ve been assigned Tom Petty and his collection of Heartbreakers’ 1979 record, Damn the Torpedoes.

Alright, I’ll be honest with you.  This post is about to be boring.  Even more so than usual.  Don’t even bother reading it, really.  I’ll be back tomorrow with something a bit more exciting (hopefully).  Seriously.  Go outside or something.  This is about as interesting as this collection of 250 words will get.

You’ve been warned.

Tom Petty is bland.  There’s nothing more to it.  As with many DRT records, this album is no longer culturally relevant, so the music that it contains would have to be pretty special to impress me.  Sure, if I was around in ’79, I probably would have liked this stuff.  It doesn’t pack that much of a punch today.

I’m going to start using that acronym for Dad-Rock Tuesday more often.  I really like it.  It’s pronounced “dirt,” by the way.

Anyway, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers just don’t get it done for me.  There are a few tracks on the album that I will admit I enjoyed.  Refugee is pretty catchy; there’s no denying that.  I didn’t mind What Are You Doin’ In My Life either.  Outside of those two tracks, the record is dull, standard, rock.

So what’s new with you guys?  Has this format grown stale yet?  I don’t really care if it has, it wouldn’t stop me anyway.  Just figured I would be polite and ask.   250.

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Day 91: Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies

30 May

If It Kills Me

Finally.  It’s here.  Algernon Cadwallader’s new album has leaked, and it officially feels like summer.  I don’t know if this is really a “leak” in the classic sense, though. For all I could tell, there was no official release date planned for this record—the band was just going to sell it on their tour when copies of it were made available to them.  I wanted to become familiar with the new stuff before their stop in Chicago, so I didn’t hesitate for a second when I saw that there was a download on the web.

This record has been a long time coming.  Tales of delays, problems, and frustration permeated the Algernon blog over the past couple months, as the band appeared to be struggling to put together something that they really thought of as perfect.  And after a couple of listens, the wait was definitely worth it.

Think of Cap’n Jazz, but with guys who sound like they’re a little nicer, and less angsty.  That’s what you get out of Algernon Cadwallader.  Yeah, there’s plenty of screaming, but it’s not obnoxious screaming.  It has a purpose, you feel so much emotion pouring out of every track, and you can tell that these guys put everything they have into this record, as usual.  And hell, it sounds good.  You’ve got to move past the stigmas that music with a little screaming may have (THIS IS NOT “SCREAMO,” WHATEVER THE HELL THAT IS), and just listen free of bias.  You may find that you like it.

I’m making it sound like screaming takes over this record.  It doesn’t, I promise. In fact, my favorite thing about Algernon’s music is the lyrics that I can actually comprehend. “Exercise your wrists/exercise your fists/exercise common sense” on Pitfall sticks out right now, and I’m sure that there are plenty of other (possibly better) gems that I’ll hear after a few more listens.  Another great record from this underappreciated band.

Day 90: Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

29 May

The Piano Drop

Sometimes in life, you have to step back and admit that you’re confused.  That you don’t understand.  That you straight-up don’t get something.  I’m going to have to do that with this post.  Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 is too deep for me.

I guess I should have expected as much from a guy whose work has such labels as “drone” and “ambient.”  Think about one of your favorite records for a second.  You know that feedback heavy, distorted intro that goes on for a little too long before the catchy guitar riff on the first song kicks in?  Yeah, that’s what this record is like.  For 52 minutes and 18 seconds.  I kept thinking, “hey, this sounds kind of cool, like something exciting is about to happen.”  The only problem is that the exciting thing never materialized.  It got frustrating after a while.

I only heard about this record because my main man (and stalkee) Gareth Campesinos! posted it on his Tumblr.  Being the creepy and obsessive fan that I am, I had to check it out.  Gareth, I’m sorry bud. I guess you’re just smarter than me.  Or more willing to pretend to like bad music to appear smarter than me. I don’t know.

What I do know is that about halfway through this record, I fell into a trance of sorts.  Maybe that’s what ambient music is supposed to do to you.  If so, maybe this is good ambient music.  And if that is true, I guess ambient music just isn’t for me.  The trance was boring.

Day 89: Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (2010)

28 May

Suffocation

This is a big moment in Swole Ear history.  This post will be something that my millions of readers will surely remember forever, and undoubtedly tell their grandchildren about.   Today is the day that I post a second album by an artist that I’ve already covered in this blog.  This is big.  I spent last night tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep, as I was still debating whether this was proper for Swole Ear or not.  Ultimately, I decided for it, and the result is what you are currently reading.

I liked bits and pieces of Crystal Castles’ first full-length album, as I stated in that particular post.  Its biggest problem was that it had no flow whatsoever.  That record was essentially cut and pasted together, using a bunch of CC songs that had already been released.  I predicted that this second album would work better as a whole, because it was recorded with the fact that it would be an album in mind.  I was right.

On my last CC review, I said that I was a bigger fan of their remixes than their original tracks.  Well, with this release, they proved that they are more than capable of making great, original music.  There are fewer samples, and no remixes this time around, but this album packs an even bigger punch than its predecessor.  Songs like Suffocation and Vietnam really impressed me. These two standouts bring CC’s special brand of harsh dance music to whole new levels of catchiness, and will definitely enter my regular listening rotation.

As with the last album, I have a problem with the length.  Ultimately, CC still makes dance music, and dance music is hard to sit and listen to for long periods of time.  This record clocks in at 53 minutes, and definitely starts to wear by the end.  I’m being pretty nitpicky, though.  Crystal Castles is great, and definitely a step up from Crystal Castles.

Day 88: The Antlers – Burst Apart

27 May

Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out

I’m writing this just moments after the Chicago Bulls lost their 4th consecutive game in the Eastern Conference Finals, to send the Heat on to the championship series.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the NBA, but it’s always rough seeing your hometown team go down in a fashion like that.  I figured a fairly depressing album would fit well tonight.  What could possibly be better than the newest release by The Antlers?  Remember those guys?  They came out of nowhere with Hospice a couple of years ago—that gloomy, spooky concept album about a hospice worker falling in love with his terminally ill patient.  I figured this group’s follow-up would be just as somber.  I quickly learned that I was wrong.

First off, there’s no discernable concept behind Burst Apart.  With no plot, there are no characters to attach to, and no scenes to play out.  For that reason, and because Hospice is a masterpiece of an album, Burst Apart couldn’t ever hope to reach the heart wrenching highs that Hospice does.  I think The Antlers made the right move here.  They realized that they created something special with Hospice, and following that up with another story record could only disappoint.

Believe me, it’s not a bad thing that this record isn’t as depressing.  I don’t have to reserve it for lonely, late nights, when sadness, memories, and teen angst are working harder on me than usual.  Burst Apart, unlike Hospice, does have a future in my regular rotation.

Lot’s of what I love about The Antlers can still be seen in Burst Apart.  Peter Silberman still delivers his music with a passion not often found in music today.  The instrumentation remains stark, spooky and moving.  With this newest release, The Antlers prove that they are by no means a one-album-wonder.  They have staying power in today’s music scene.

Day 87: tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

26 May

Gangsta

About halfway through this record, something hit me.  I hadn’t done my usual pre-listen research, and I couldn’t get over the vocals.  Naturally, for most of the album, I pictured the unconventional screech that dominates w h o k i l l was coming from a dude.  Now, you could write a whole dissertation on what that says about sexism in the indie community or something, but it’s the truth.  Merrill Garbus, the sole member of tUnE-yArDs (case-sensitive), sounds like a man.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not care at all.  I’m not sexist to the point that I let the gender of the singer effect how I perceive the music.  It just really threw me off.  I feel like I’m only digging myself into a deeper hole, so just listen to this, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Okay, straight-up, w h o k i l l is not for everybody.  It’s classified as “freak folk” (a genre name that I usually despise, because people apply it to almost anything unconventional—it’s becoming the new “alternative”).  That term almost fits when applied to tUnE-yArDs, though.  There are plenty of elements of folk music that shine through, but overall, this music just has an extremely weird, unconventional sound—and I love it.

I was trying to come up with a list of the different elements that can be heard throughout w h o k i l l, which proved to be nearly impossible.  Part of what gives this record such a strange sound is the large number of instruments and samples that come together to form something truly awesome.  Chances are, you may not like tUnE-yArDs.  Give man-lady a shot, though, and listen to a couple of songs.  If nothing else, you will hear something unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Day 86: Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

25 May

Simple Math

Manchester Orchestra has always received a fair amount of hate.  Their 2006 debut, the awfully named I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child is definitely a love/hate record for nearly all who give it a listen, with a majority of the indie community leaning towards the “hate” side.  I understand where they’re coming from — Andy Hull’s voice can easily be considered annoying, and lyrically, you won’t find a more melodramatic band out there.  Funnily enough, those are the two things that sucked me in and have kept me a fan to this day.  Hull’s whiny voice and blunt self-pity are sometimes just what a teenager needs when wallowing in the sea of misery that is high school.

I’m only half-joking with that last sentence.  We can all be a little dramatic at times.   Anyway, I noticed that on Manchester Orchestra’s sophomore album, Mean Everything to Nothing, they moved away from what I loved about them.  That record sounds more like some weird emo-metal hybrid than anything, and I didn’t like it.  I wanted the vulnerability that came with their debut back.  Fortunately, Simple Math is a step in the right direction.

The harder sound that Manchester adopted for their second record still breaks through on Simple Math.  Tracks like Mighty Pale and Black Eye bring back the metal sound, with heavier guitars and a greater sense of doom in the lyrics than usual.  Ultimately, I’m going to take away songs like Simple Math and April Fool.  Both go back to the group’s whiny, drama-filled roots, and that’s what I love.

Day 85: Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

24 May

Sweet Home Alabama

I knew it was only a matter of time before this day came.  I’ve managed to go 17+ years without ever being subjected to a full Lynyrd Skynrd album.  Unfortunatly, they’re one of my dad’s favorite bands, and today, that streak came to an end.  Honestly, I was surprised that he held off for so long.  This Dad-Rock Tuesday, I listened to Skynyrd’s sophomore effort, Second Helping. Never again.

I tried to embrace my inner-redneck before I pressed play, I really did.  I searched and searched, and made a very fortunate discovery: I have no inner-redneck.  I have never found Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy remotely funny, I prefer my iced tea unsweetened, and I own exactly zero Confederate flag t-shirts, bandannas, belt buckles, or rear windshield decals.  I think it must be impossible to get into Skynyrd without an inner-redneck of some sort.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I was fairly biased going into this.  Lynyrd Skynyrd has a stigma attached to them that’s fairly hard to get around.  Had Second Helping blown my socks off, I’m not sure what I would have written.  It would take a lot out of me to say that I enjoyed something by Skynyrd.  Fortunately, this record was just what I was expecting.  See Swamp Music if you don’t believe me.  “Said, ‘Go ahead pretty mama’/Lord, just take your city hike/Well, I’d rather live with the hound dogs/For the rest of my natural born life.”  Need I say any more?

So for possibly the only time in my life, I have to give Neil Young some credit.  Southern men do, in fact, suck.

Day 84: Okkervil River – The Stage Names

23 May

A Hand to Take Over the Scene

I’m on a comfort music kick.  Comfort music is different for everybody, but in the context of Swole Ear, it must meet a few requirements.  I want records that are easy to listen to, easy to analyze, and aren’t too far over the 40-minute mark.   For me, “easy to listen to” usually refers to standard indie rock bands.  See The Hold Steady, The National, The Thermals, etc.  So by all means, if you know of any records that meet these criteria, hit me up at Swole.Ear@gmail.com.  Send any other suggestions there if you want, as I’m sure I’ll be off this kick fairly soon.

So, for the time being, Okkervil River satisfied this comfort music craving quite well.  They’re about as standard as a folk-rock band can get, and that’s just what I need.  Okkervil River reminds me of a few of bands that I love, from Wilco to The Decemberists, with touches of Bright Eyes, and even lyrical bits that wouldn’t sound out of place in a The Hold Steady song.  This band is essentially a melting pot of awesome, and I loved nearly every minute of their 2007 release, Stage Names.

Front man Will Sheff is the reason that I was so quick to attach myself to this record.  He’s one clever dude, and upon this first listen, his lyrics come off as extremely insightful.  I’m sure there’s a lot that I missed, but his frequent references to indie music, and even other songs from the same album won me over right away.  He’s also got a decent voice.  I forget that those can be pleasant to listen to every now and then.

Day 83: Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History

22 May

I Can Talk

Thank god! A short album!   Swole Ear has been killing me lately, with all of these long, unanalyzable records.  When the awesome last.fm’er pthcfrkabortion suggested Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History, and told me of its [relatively short] length, I bumped it straight to the top of the Swole Ear queue.  I needed something familiar; I needed to go back to my indie rock comfort zone, if only for a day.

And go back to my comfort zone I did.  Tourist History returned me to the beautiful pre-Swole Ear days.  A time where I could happily go weeks between hearing new records, and just enjoy music because I liked it—no word-count-intensive-explanation required.  Oh well, I’ll stop bitching.  I’ll be done with this soon enough.

Two Door Cinema Club’s terrible band name is inversely proportional to the quality of their music.  I love Tourist History, I really do.  It’s all pretty standard rock music, but that’s all it has to be.  TDCC don’t need to reinvent the genre as they have thoroughly mastered it.  This record is made up of ten short, catchy rock songs, and shines because of its simplicity.

I didn’t realize that they were playing at Lollapalooza until now.  I’m really looking forward to their set, as they’re definitely a perfect band for festivals. Every song that they make is catchy and danceable, so they’ll have no problem pleasing a crowd that is unfamiliar with their material.  Those are always the best festival shows, anyway. TDCC wont have the common boring-set problem, as all their stuff sounds like you’ve known it forever.