Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm Tired.

O.k., I'm fried from an extra-long work week, so instead I'm just gonna give a few recommendations.

Lydia, Illuminate
I first really heard this band on Monday, ordered the CD, and it arrived yesterday. It's basically Beneath Medicine Tree part 2, for better or worse. Mindy White adds some keys and vocals which fit perfectly in this indie blend, and help give it a bit more of a distinctive sound. Things get confusing on "Hospital," though, when Copeland's Aaron Marsh shows up to add vocals to the most Copeland-sounding non-Copeland track ever. Good stuff. Current favorite track: "A Fine Evening for a Rogue" ("don't you ever get lonely?")

Once, Original Soundtrack
I just saw this movie last night. It reminded me of why I could never fall for a girl who is an accomplished musician; we'd just fight like James and I do (which is fine for James and me, but probably not for a stable opposite-sex relationship). Anyway, the songs are fun, and the part on the bus near the beginning of the film was a total Jonathan Greener moment.

Death Cab for Cutie, "I Will Possess Your Heart"
O.k., this song isn't as good as it is long. It sounds really thin compared to... well, everything else Chris Walla has ever produced. Oddly, the first 4-1/2 minutes sound like seminal Wheaton jam band I.R.A.T.E., while the last 4 minutes (did I mention it's a long song?) have some good lyrics, but overall are quickly forgotten. I'm still optimistic about Narrow Stairs, releasing in May, but not quite as much as I was.

Motion City Soundtrack, Even If It Kills Me
This album didn't make it into 2007's Top Ten, and I'm still bothered by the "She's the pizza of my eye" lyric, but it's a really solid album. And the production perfectly matches the band's sound, elevating the songs higher than they could reach on their own. Current favorites: title track, "This Is For Real," "Last Night"

That's all. The tank's dry. Have a great Easter weekend.

Friday, March 14, 2008


While meeting for coffee with a seasoned veteran of rock recording, I was confronted with the idea that the Foo Fighters could be to blame – at least in part – for the current “loudness war” occurring in modern rock music production. 1997’s The Colour and the Shape was presented to me as the first of the “loud” records – an album that jumps out of the stereo and into your head, not only melodically but also sonically. There is nothing in producer Gil Norton’s discography at that point to indicate a thirst for pushing the limits of volume, yet TCATS attacked with a vociferousness that none of its contemporaries possessed. The choruses on singles like “Monkey Wrench,” “My Hero,” and “Everlong” simply explode, and the verses are usually not far removed. So this got me thinking – could my favourite album from my favourite band be an instigator of the downward spiral we find ourselves a part of?


No it cannot.

The real culprit, my friends, is all around the release of The Colour and the Shape, but not in it. Though 1997 saw the release of fellow masterpiece OK Computer, it also heralded the arrival of Deftones, Green Day’s Nimrod, and Re-Load, as well as, oh yes… the Backstreet Boys. Their self-titled album went platinum 14 times over in the US alone, and was followed by *NSYNC’s debut the following year, no slouch either, selling 11 million copies. 1998 also saw Korn’s first mainstream success, Follow the Leader, and here we start to see two different but equally-popular methods arising: the crystal-clear polish of the boy bands, and the bass-heavy, kick-drum-triggered nu metal crunch. Both approaches and styles were taking over airwaves and the first stages of the internet. After the successes of grunge, alternative, and pop-punk in the early- to mid-90s, rock music was getting pushed aside. Fighting for a place and a sound, producers took both elements – the pop sheen and the nu metal EQ – and threw them together. The result is where we find ourselves today: we have the best equipment to record, mix, and play music with the greatest dynamic range ever, yet we use less and less of it on records, to paraphrase the engineer I spoke with. And our ears are getting tired.

Whereas rock fans in the 70s and 80s related to albums on a personal and intimate level, blasting them through stereo systems or headphones, we cannot do that with the majority of albums released today. Putting aside how we connect to music currently, most records today literally fatigue our ears as we listen to them, assaulting them with so many frequencies and at such high intensities that we can only put up with it for so long. I’m sure many people have experienced situations where they find themselves physically unable to listen to music, usually after experiencing a high-volume setting for more than a short period of time. Sadly, this leads us to not value the experience of listening to and experiencing music as much as we should or could. Yet another reason why listeners no longer value music as a worthwhile piece of art, and instead treat it as a disposable commodity.

But at least it’s not the Foo Fighters’ fault.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"We're Getting the Band Back Together"

2008 is already the year of the reunion. Nobody cares that 2007 brought a new Smashing Pumpkins album and a Spice Girls reunion tour. 2008 is already brimming with possibilities, not even counting the New Kids on the Block rumors that are swirling.

Living Sacrifice - Demon Hunter's recent track, "Sixteen," illustrates why 90% of the metal/metalcore bands should just quit. Guest vocalist Bruce Fitzhugh shreds harder than most of the guitars out there right now, and it wasn't even a particularly stunning performance for him. It doesn't even matter that the line he growls is a word-for-word ripoff of Skillet's first single, "Gasoline." This guy could read cooking directions or road signs and it would still make my skin tingle (in a good way).

Stavesacre - Nothing's certain, especially with this band, but the current plan involves writing one last record with original guitarist Jeff Bellew (How to Live with a Curse was intended to be their last, but you get the impression that they weren't exactly satisfied with it). Judging by the gusto with which they're approaching their upcoming show in Germany, I'm getting optimistic.

Sixpence None the Richer - According to a recent blog post from Leigh Nash, she and Matt Slocum are at least making music together again. At first this made me happy, then I got uneasy flashbacks to Billy Corgan's Chicago Times ad and the resulting album. Fingers crossed.

Colored by Numbers - They're approaching it Postal Service-style (since the six members now live in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Long Beach, Costa Rica, and Syria), but it's far too early to speculate.

dignan - No, not the band from Texas. The other one.

Artists I'm Still Hoping To Hear About: Steve Taylor, Fleming and John, Further Seems Forever w/Chris Carrabba (yeah I went there), Hey Mercedes, twothirtyeight.