Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Pity Review: Pity Sex's Feast of Love*

*This is in no way reflective of my actual opinions on the album...just trying out different titles.

Pity Sex is an indie rock group from Ann Arbor, MI.  Feast of Love, their debut album, was released in June 2013 on Run For Cover Records, and I recently bought it when it was featured in Soundsupply's tenth drop (it's the second album of ten that I am reviewing, I told you I'd do it!).

It's easy to see why the band lists "shoegaze" on their Bandcamp page.  This album has such a thick, droning sound quality, that resembles bands like Yuck and The Boo Radleys.  In some ways their density is offset by some lead guitar lines that stand out from the muck (again in the best way possible).

The lead line on the first track, "Wind Up" just barely floats over the rest of the instrumentation, and it really gives the song some texture.  Granted, some of the moments I enjoy on the album are--according to Wikipedia and an entry on characteristic of shoegazing music.  The lyrics to songs like "St. John's Wart" or "Honey Pot" are definitely thoughtful, and audible enough to actually understand (unlike some Yuck songs).  On "Wind Up" and "Honey Pot," the two fastest songs on the album, the guitar solos separate themselves very clearly from the rest of the droning haze.

Pity Sex is most interesting when they use their passion for various guitar effects to create tension from moment to moment.  "Sedated," which opens with a very thick, distorted bass line, plays around with different effects to give the song momentum--significantly more momentum than it would have if the effects were constant throughout the song.  At 1:42 the guitar's distortion cuts off for about ten seconds, and it really gives the track some room to breath, and it's tremendously effective.

The effects work better on some songs than on others.  On "Smoke Screen," track four, right when we could use a little change in sound, the guitar's distortion is stripped away, but it's chorus tones get over powered by the distorted bass.  After a catchy riff, the distortion kicks back in, and the parts start to merge into a buzz again.  At the end, there's a nice opportunity to bookend the song, but there is this uncomfortable feedback that doesn't fit well with the opening riff.

This album really isn't bad, and I suspect people with more of a taste for pop punk and punk will enjoy Pity Sex's interpretation of shoegazing.  There are some moments I really love on here, but I do feel the album wears itself out after a bit.  If you are more into this style of indie rock, I think this album is a solid purchase.  I'll say 7/10**, and I hope that comes off how I want it to--seriously though when did "C for satisfactory" become such a bad thing?  You ever feel satisfied?  It's pretty good to be satisfied by something.

As always, if you heard this album, what did you think?  Love it?  Hate it?  If there are any shoegaze fans reading, how did I do?  What albums do you recommend I listen to to get a better picture of the genre?  Who do you think Pity Sex resembles?

Let me know in the comments what you think I should review next.  If you don't, I'll actually have to make a decision--that terrifies me.

**I did not give them a higher rating out of pity, and while I think that goes without saying, I wanted it on record.  Of course by saying this I only create suspicion about my integrity as a "music critic," which--let's really be honest--was never really all that high.  If you still feel the need to list your "title" in quotes, you probably aren't all that confident in your ability to fulfill your role--this has really gotten away from me this time.


- (YUP: It happened again!)
- (Didn't know this was a thing, and I am so glad it is)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Belle and Sebastian: The Third Eye Centre

Belle and Sebastian (Belle & Sebastian?) is an indie-pop group from Glasgow.  After a four year hiatus the band reunited and put out Write About Love in 2010.  Now, about three years later they released Third Eye Centre, a compilation of singles, bonus tracks, and B-sides released since their last compilation of singles, bonus tracks and B-sides Push the Barman to Open Old Wounds.
When you first get the album, it's impossible to ignore the case.  The art work is typical of Belle and Sebastian--still doing the weird monochromatic photograph thing--but the actual case is a hardback book cover (appropriate since there are songs from the Books EP, but I think I just delight in minutiae).  Anyways, the album insert has, instead of lyrics, little stories about the songs.
Figure 1.1-A picture of the album, a stack of CD's I have to
to review, aftershave, and a painting left by the previous
occupants of my house.

Some of these tracks might be familiar if you're an inconsistently obsessive fan boy like me (meaning I tracked down most their singles once, but I still don't own two of their albums because I don't have any money).  The Avalanches reworked "I'm a Cuckoo" for a single in 2004 leads the album with a Sudanese choir in the background, along with bongos and a triangle (possibly a cowbell, but I have no proof).  There is a lead flute that hangs just behind Murdoch's vocals, twisting the melody to a catchy riff (jazz flute is for little fairy boys).

While we're talking about remixes, we have to address the remix of "You're Cover's Blown," which I prefer to the original.  By giving the song a strong kick drum on all four beats and emphasizing the synthesizer and keyboard riffs, Miaoux Miaoux makes this into dance music for people having a terrible time while they dance.  As I say that I realize this is probably the least appealing song to listen to while you dance--especially if you're trying to actually have fun--but it's still a remix that works.  

Richard X also remixes "I Didn't See It Coming," which is probably my least favorite of all the remixes.  For some reason it reminds me of a less edgy version of the remix of "Escape From the City" that was in Sonic generations.

It's easy to see that some of these tracks wouldn't have fit on their intended album (specifically "The Life Pursuit," which was removed from the album The Life Pursuit), but the tracks are all strong enough to justify releasing them on this compilation.  "Suicide Girls" tells the story (from the dude's perspective) of a girl who asks her friend to take her picture for the site Suicide Girls (no, I will not post a link).  Sure this guy's a little possessive of a girl he's never actually explained his feelings to, but it's so catchy--and 80s, very, very 80's with it's synths and chorus pedals.

The one thing this album really lacks is flow--I know it's a compilation of previous recordings, but go with me on this.  There are times where songs go from one to the next very well, from "Your Secrets" to "Heaven in the Afternoon" things go pretty smoothly.  But after that there is a rough jump from "Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House" to the Richard X remix of "I Didn't See It Coming."  There are some sections grouped together by what single they were on (the "White Collar Boy" single and "I'm a Cuckoo" single), but the rest are scattered.  It seems like there are these chunks whiwhere things all come from the same era, followed by sections that mix together better.  It seems like they really tried to create coherence, but I think they just didn't quite get there.

It's not a new recording, but it is nice to have these songs collected.  I'd put it at a B or a B-minus (8/10: is that a B-minus because my teacher says C+).  That's another album down.  If you listened to it, how did you feel?  Was this review good for anything?  Did you print it out to use as toilet paper (why would you do that)?  What should I review next?

Hint: I'm reviewing a Pity Sex album so get ready for that--or give me an alternative if you want to hear my opinion (for some reason).  Leave it all in the comments friends, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Whenever, If Ever

The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is a group from Connecticut, and their first album is a post-rock influenced version of early to middle 90s emo music.  This band specifically reminds me of Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate with their vocal stylings--slightly off key vibrato.

While I'm thinking of Mineral, bands don't really use dynamics as much as they could, and Mineral was different in that regard. When I heard The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, I noticed how their songs build--and not just from loud to louder.  I think the swells in their music give each song weight.  "Ultimate Steve" rises from start to finish, and by the end I got chills.  The opening track "Blank #9" uses a quiet cello and percussion to create ambient noise, building tension and making the lone guitar line that much more tense.

The World Is A Beautiful Place separates from Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate (the two comparisons that are most relevant to me) with their instrumentation and their sense of humor.  The synthesizer is reminiscent of The Get Up Kids or early Motion City Soundtrack, and on the track "Fightboat" (dude, what is a fightboat anyways?) the synth riff layers over the guitar, giving it a quicker, triumphant feeling.  As for humor, all you need to look at is their song titles, "You Will Never Go to Space," "Picture of a Tree That Doesn't Look Okay," and (my personal favorite) "Ultimate Steve."

"Ultimate Steve" isn't a funny song at all when you consider the lyrics: "Eventually, the world’s gonna end. We should stop our grieving."  The title sets a tone though.  This band reminds us that you can be serious without taking yourself too seriously.  For that, I'd call this an 8/10.

That's album #1 from, and so far I don't hate myself.  If you've heard this album, tell me what you thought in the comments.  Don't forget to tell me how I did too?  Was this a helpful review (probably not)?

Let me know in the comments what you think I should review next (though I do have something planned).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Soundsupply Drop 10 is a site that collects 10 albums from various artists and releases them in "drops."  It costs 15 dollars for each drop, they're released every other month, and they're on sale for ten days. Occasionally there will be a bonus EP or album available if you fulfill some extra requirement (most recently you had to post on Twitter or Facebook) about Drop 10. I decided to sell my soul (I actually tweeted something for once) for the free EP so I ended up with ten albums and an EP. This is the first Drop I could "afford" (actually I ordered it without thinking because I'm bad with money) since they featured Matt Pryor's May Day.

But because I bought Drop 10, I am going to listen to and review every album in the collection--even though they aren't all brand new albums. Hopefully this makes me feel slightly better about my impulse buy. At the end, I'll decide whether my purchase, which was frivolous and irresponsible regardless, was "justified."  If it wasn't I'll launch into a downward spiral from buyer's remorse. Here's the list:

  • Junior Astronomers, Dead Nostalgia
  • Eric & Magill, Night Singers
  • Their/They're/There, s/t
  • The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Whenever, If Ever
  • Eli Mardock, Everything Happens For The First Time
  • Cowboy Indian Bear, Live Old, Die Young
  • Now, Now, Neighbors: Deluxe
  • Pity Sex, Feast Of Love
  • Mister Loveless, Grow Up
  • Brian Irving, Radiant Things
  • La Guerre, The Three
Hopefully you'll hear good things about every one of these albums. Otherwise it looks like regret (followed by depression and self-loathing) and Dear You, Under The Boards and Nothing Feels Good on repeat for a week.  Have a nice day.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Snoop Lion's Reincarnated

  Snoop Dogg made a pilgrimage to Jamaica and came back as Snoop Lion.  Now Snoop Lion has released the album Reincarnated.  This is Snoop's attempt at Reggae, which seems appropriate given his penchant for smoking weed.

     There is some part of me that would really love to hate this album.  Every track features at least one guest artist.  Miley Cyrus and Drake made appearances, and I've never liked either of them.  Snoop also had (according to an article by Drew Magary on GQ's website) top 40 aspirations with this collection of songs.  For these reasons, part of me--probably the part of me stuck in high school screaming about how much Geffen records suck--would love to hate this album.  But I don't hate this album, because none of the previously listed reasons have anything to do with the quality of the music.

Lyrically it's very positive, particularly on tracks like "So Long," and "The Good Good."  "Fruit Juice" is literally about juice, but it's also about the benefits of a natural diet.

This is a reggae album, and there are times where it barely feels like one.  Snoop Lion's album does not push the limits of the genre, it just feels the reggae influence is mixed into the background.  This is particularly true on the opening track, "Rebel Way."  There is a lot of emphasis on the vocals, which distracts from the rest of the instrumentation.

I'm not really a fan of Major Lazer's production on this album.  Most of the time I found his background noises distracting.  On "Here Comes the King" there was more empty space, and that only helped the track.  Probably my favorite song on the album would be "The Good Good," with "Tired of Running" and "Here Comes the King" as close followers.  The other songs feel a little thick and they don't leave much empty space for the music to build around.

When I sat down to write this review I had listened to a bit of Bob Marley and a little Desmond Decker.  I also read the up on reggae, starting with the Wikipedia page.  To me, this album feels--at least part of the time--like someone looked at the Wikipedia entry for reggae, put in a few elements of the genre, and then mixed them into the background of the music.

My biggest criticism of this album would be its lack of staying power.  After five times listening to this album, I can only really remember a few songs ("Smoke the Weed" and "Fruit Juice"), and I could live my life without ever hearing another song off this album again.   Honestly Reincarnated is not very good, but it's not like it's offensively bad--what I really mean is this album elicits no emotional response from me.  If I had to assign a number I'd say 4/10.

My question to you is, if you've listened to this album, did you love it, hate it, or feel like I did?  What would help me better understand what this album was going for?  What contemporary reggae artists can you recommend?  And finally, what should I review next?

Sources:  (Yes I really did read this)

Monday, July 15, 2013

What is "I Don't Know Music?"

Earlier this year, a friend of mine asked me to start listening to new albums sent to our college's radio station and reviewing.  I agreed because I was eager to discover more music (especially for free), and I wanted to learn to write entertaining, functional reviews.  I sat down to review Mudhoney's new album and immediately realized I had no idea how to talk about music. At least beyond nonsensically yelling about how awesome Saves the Day (or insert other band I love) is.

About two weeks later, I thought up this blog.  I decided that I'd write reviews and just ask people for feedback.  That's where the readers come in.  I'm going to ask you to tell me what you thought of the review.  If I review something from a genre I don't know particularly well, I'm going to have to research that genre.  At the end of my review I'll ask you what you know about the genre.  What albums are classics?  What albums are considered (almost) universally bad?  
Here's an example: I know nothing about metal-core.  I actually don't know a single band that fits into that genre.  It will require research to review that music. If I don't get it quite right, I need you to tell me.  So like that stranger at the supermarket that offered me candy when I was seven, I am luring you in with the promise of sweets and fun*.  Let’s have an adventure. 

*He did not promise me more candy or any fun, but he did offer me some suspiciously wrapped tootsie rolls.