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Monday, July 30, 2012

Foster - Emerald Lights, Fast Cars EP REVIEW

"Incredible B-Sides dude...

-Austin Lovelace"

Wherever you are reading this, it’s probably safe to say that you could use a quick refresher (fresher in this case?) on this project. The best place to start would be to look more into the influences they show. Explosions in the SkyMogwaiRussian CirclesSlintMaybeshewill, and Talk Talk. This band steeps itself pretty deep in the style of Post Rock, a genre whose participants names read off like a Dr. Sues book and have the same effect as a child’s parents hoped reading to their kids would. Fans of this kind of music get lost in their own world when they put their headphones in but other listeners, sadly, just fall asleep. I don’t think I could explain it better then the title of an album by Swans, “Soundtracks for the Blind”.

I could list off bands I love from this genre all day, but to do so would waste your time and dilute any point that could be made about this band. Post Rock has separated itself as a genre from anything else but the influences they take from Rock couldn't be clearer; bands like The Moody BluesLed Zeppelin, and Swans are big ones. This band, however, separates themselves further away from the genre’s past because the sound palette this band uses pulls directly from their predecessors (listed above). While continuing the tradition of bending guitar strings to get out every sound possible, they never crossed the path of one that I would associate with their genre’s Classic and Experimental past. Every sound they use is an extension of the sounds Post Rock essentially invented but what keeps them from completely detaching themselves from their Rock roots is their strong connection with Indie and Classic Rock song writing.

Most Post Rock bands let their music do the talking and their voices are either absent completely or so immaculate that they feel just like another cord in the string section. Foster chooses to keep pinned to lyrics and verses, which is what warrants the Slint comparison (and Talk Talk, I almost forgot Talk Talk). I have never really been that big of a fan of Slint, which is sacrilegious to most Post Rock fans; the point of mentioning this is that Foster corrects the problem I have with that band. Slint’s vocals have always felt emotionless and they just hung off the end of the songs, like a broken eraser, while Foster does the opposite. There isn't a moment on this album where Tanner VanBaal’s vocals don’t feel genuine in what he’s talking about. Their vocal delivery soounds somewhere between sole artists like Bobby Womack and ambient like Jónsi (of Sigur Rós), almost like the singer of Talk Talk (I can’t forget Talk Talk). The combination is a beautiful addition to the instrumentation but I can hardly understand a word. “Staying right by your side, I’m alive” is the indication that the sound is more important then the lyrics anyway and that’s what I get from them but they do leave me wondering whether it’s the production or the singer mumbling that confuses me.

The problems I have with this album start with the production. Another comparison to make with Slint is the production style which unfortunately is something I don’t think Foster was able to turn around. Almost all the bands in this style have immaculate production but this album just like Slint’s “Spiderland” has an Indie Rock, on the edge of "lo-fi", kind of recording. I never liked that kind of recording with Post Rock because I like to use my “peripheral hearing”. All of my favorite bands in this style force you to go deep into their songs to find sounds hidden in the mix, and that creates a sense of depth in their music. That is still possible because of the stacked instruments, that do sound dence, but they don’t make you work for it. It takes away from them because they use a sound pallet adapted from bands who do use the immaculate production style. I am a frequent listener of music like this though, so I do have to recognize that the production might be the reason new listeners might be able to grab on to this easier than where Foster started.

1. Mexican Radio

This track starts out with a short build into a heavy, Mogwai sounding, riff that goes in and out of a few Russian Circles inspired bass lines, before hitting a groove that reminds me a lot of the more melodic Mogwai tracks like “San Pedro” or “The Sun Smells too Loud”.

2. Voices

My least favorite track on the album starts with the kind of echoey riffs that I’ve only heard from Foster but the vocals are so awkward over the intro and the chorus that it makes it hard to keep moving through the track. When I heard the short solo work Shane Cahn lays down over the songs transition (which is catchy as hell) it kept me going through the track. It is nice to hear the female voice on this track though...

3. Hand-Picked Lemon

The riff that I couldn't stand on the previous track is used here in a very nice groove. This is one of the few tracks that is constantly changing and introducing new sounds; it gives me the feeling and depth I expect from an Explosions in the Sky track (and Talk Talk). Though the riffing on the bridge, intro, and solo/transitions still reminds me a lot of Mogwai they are still sounds I’ve only heard from this band (correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like they are messing around with the necks of their guitars).

4. Chupacabra

By this track I can tell they love messing with the guitar sounds that either annoyed me or got me really involved but from here on out they do a great job of it. This is easily the catchiest song on the album with lyrics I can actually hear, they make me want to sing along, “I wonder where they’ve been”. They also lay down a vocal melody that is catchy as hell with guitars squealing behind it, before it breaks into a heavy bass line. The breakdowns all over this track sound a lot like Maybeshewill with their Post Metal style and it leads to some really fast riffing to end the track right! They sound pretty fun on this track which only a few bands like And So I Watch You From Afar or sleepmakeswaves (and Talk Talk)play around with.

5. Necklace

The instrumentation on this track hits all at once and and really builds a beautiful noise under the most emotional vocals on this album. This song lacks some individuality but it really makes up for it in a real sentimental feeling and a great almost Godspeed You, Black Emperor type of outro starting when the band yells “1, 2, 3, 4”.

6. Top 40

This track hits the same way as the last but it had a few nice transitions with the echoing sound coming from each instrument at the same time and ending with a really tight drum roll and loud guitars that again remind me of Mogwai at their most melodic.

- Austin Lovelace

The Note Pad:

Other Post Rock bands: Slint, Talk Talk, Explosions in the Sky, And So I watch You From Afar, Maybeshewill, sleepmakeswaves, MONO, Russian Circles, Do Make Say Think, Godspeed You,Black Emperor

Other bands you might like: Pink Floyd, Swans, The Moody Blues, Rush, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Queen

in partnership with "The Brainless Horde/The RedHeaded Zombie Show": CLICK HERE

Buy It: HERE 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sigur Rós - Valtari REVIEW

"We are officially 10 likes away from hitting 50! Thanks to Angela Delmedico for getting us to 40.

-Austin Lovelace"
This is an album that's been highly anticipated, not surprising considering they're one of the biggest names in post rock. Seance post-rock has been a genre that has manged to climb and maintain a high popularity rate with the indie crowd, it's not surprising a band as unique as Sigur Rós would rise to the top. Although uniqueness is where a lot of listeners last doubted them. Their 2008 album "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" was easily their most accessible album and even though that turned critics off, it didn't stop fans from enjoying the album. As a fan of the band I loved the last album but I'm also a post-rock fan so it was clear to me that Sigur Rós was embracing the influence of another band. Explosions In the Sky is my favorite post-rock band and apparently Sigur Rós felt similar. So after putting out a live album (based on their last) and taking one extra year to put out a full length where do they land?

This album acts like 2008 never happened and acts like their previous album was a progression that doesn't need to be experimented any further. This album takes me back to what are considered their classic albums, "Takk...", "( )", "Ágætis byrjun". Sigur Rós is back to slow, immaculately produced, beautiful movements. They really try to get everything they can out of each note; they just get every bit of emotion out of each string, key, pluck, slide, and pull. Sigur Rós is once again trying to make you break down into either crying or complete contentment.

Not to say Sigur Rós is trying to satisfy critics or get stuck in a rut to make fans happy. I mean, is going back two albums really that far? Besides this album is a progression on the style that made them so sought after any way. The new Sigur Rós is clearly trying to break into ambiance, the closest genre to their origin. Being one of the slowest bands in their genre this career shift makes complete seance but Sigur Rós faces a conflict going from an album that went as far into post-rock as ""Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" to an album that leaves the genre all together. Fortunately we don't have to experience that because they are ready to hold our hand and convince us that this move will not only work but be for the better.

You are guaranteed, as a fan, to be pleased with how Sigur Rós wants to change. The song writing style on this record is the same writing that people loved on "Takk" but hesitant. When I said "get everything they can out of each note" I meant it. Once a piano key is hit you wont hear the next one until the reverb on the last has faded. You get the same affect with every instrument and effect on this album, guitars all the way to the strings in the back. Fortuity the instrumentation is stacked so there is always plenty of sounds to pull out of what your hearing. What is extremely impressive about how "Valtari" does this, is how unbelievably beautiful each track is. A great example is the first single to drop from this album, "Ekki Múkk", which starts with these immaculate strings and then Jónsi's vocals come in while the song just grows, climaxes in the middle before it fades out in the cloud of honest joy it created. The first track, "Ég anda", starts quiet and builds until the end where it's just a thick loud mesh. Jónsi's vocals remain just as much of an instrument as everything else, when he holds these high notes for amazing periods of time, without even knowing the language he's speaking he is incredible.

The first 4 tracks on this album just pull everything out of me and if I let them, they could hypnotize me into pure joy but at some point I have to dig into this album a little more. After numerous listens the effect, at least as drastically, ends after the first 4 tracks. I wont pretend tracks 5 & 6 are bad but not as incredible as 1-4; which is a bar so high I don't know how they matched it 5 times. The 5th time being track 7, the title track. Staying consistently high volume this track makes so many slight melody changes that it pulls me back into the trance I was in at the beginning. "Fjögur píanó", though beautifully written, feels to much like something off of "Takk..." to flow with the whole album, it feels like it should have ended one track earlier with 5 & 6.

My complaints with this album are minimal but no matter how much I praise Sigur Rós for what they've done here I have to ask the question... Is this album as good as the ones that came before it? Well, it's better than  "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" but I can't say it's better then the works I and many others consider classics, but can we really expect that, really. I'm left with only one peace of advise for this band; fuck what everyone else thinks because when you want to delve into something new it is your responsibility to become the best at it even if you have to change, give your self to the genre you want to make. This is easily on par with "Von", their first album and as far as I'm concerned, that's all I really need.

-Austin Lovelace

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Note Pad: The Music Is Sound Rating, Paying for Music, and Supporting Our Fans

"I'm fell off with green day a while back but I'm digging the hell out of this trailer!

-Austin Lovelace"

I'm going to start reviewing new albums so I'll be abandoning the weekly format to cover the albums on my "anticipated list". I also want to cover other albums that came out this year so recommend albums to me and I'll give them a listen.

This is the system I'm going to use to rate the albums (already been used on the "Milo Takes Baths review". I'm hoping it's easy enough to understand, if not pleas let me know how I could fix it, but there are still some things I want to clear up. Rather than just using a number/star system or a symbol system we wanted to create a system that not only made it clear how we felt about it but could also be easily separated into 3 easey categories; simply put "buy it", "sample it", or "pirate it". We want to give the impression that we buy music that we like and for that matter, want you to buy and support. Even though our lowest rating is "pirate it" we don't support you doing it. We want this blog to have hummer so a rating of "pirate it" should be taken as a joke, though it does mean I'm not going to dish out any money for it. The ratings don't cross with each other, so you can't expect a rating including both "bad" and "buy it"; meaning that not dishing out any money means I didn't like it anyway and won't ever listen to it again. We do promote that you always pay for the music you like but our 2nd rating "sample it" can contradict that. Without trying to sound like I support pirating I do support "illegal downloads" to sample albums. I have used this method to listen and review albums before but I always had the intent on buying it if I wanted to hear it again, if I liked it, and I could rant on that but I will leave the issue at that. If there are any ways you can listen to a project for free and legally pleas sample that way; "Groove Shark", "Spotify", "Youtube", and more are all ways to legally listen to music. Our worst and final rating "rebecca black (why)" is not referring to the person it is referring to the meme and will only be used in the case of an album I actually find offensive and I can almost assure you our version of a 0 will hardly, if ever, be used. I don't like the song though.
(. )__(. )' ( .)__( .)'

We don't promote any particular way of buying your music as long as you pay for it but I will inform you that the older the medium is, the more money the artist gets. Record Companies not only have deals with stores and artists but also media developers as well; they move their attention to the newest media type; the artists get lower percentages of the money that goes into what is now cheaper mediums. In addition to also being more expensive and producing more money artists also get a larger percentage of the money spent on Vinyl rather than CDs, and more from CD's than MP3s. I myself always buy my music on CD but like I said before as long as you pay for your music than we don't care how.

Despite all opinions expressed we are not here to change minds or force ideas on anyone. We can only say what we think, and after that it's all up to you. You don't need to agree with a review I wright or a score I give so please tell us what you think. We'll even offer a download of our score template here so you can rate it for your self (here). You can use this system on your blog as well but please notify us. If you wright a review of the same album and send it to use We'll even feature it on the post, if we like it. We want to express our opinions but pleas take everything we've said with a grain of salt until you here the album for yourself, then tell us what you think. If anything, music deserves a collective opinion so join us and help us get there.

-Austin Lovelace