Grove City College student who started a blog for a class.
The dismal setting of my office – distinctly small, hot, and intern-insignificant – witnessed a shining beacon of joy this morning when my resolute Pitchfork perusal enlightened me to the fact that Bon Iver is streaming a well-awaited new album. The mere thought of this truth was surely enough to energize me with bliss, but better was listening to it the first time. It isn’t often that when listening to a new album I’m so carelessly blissful for anything beyond the newness of the album. But this time, the album in and of itself made me just so happy. I had to smile like a maladroit fool all the while I listened. Justin and company, you’ve truly outdone yourselves this time.
I also had an overwhelming feeling that summer had arrived and it wasn’t just because the sweat trickling down my brow despite a fan blowing directly in my face. I love so much that this album isn’t just a repeat of For Emma, Forever Ago. It is undeniably Bon Iver, but it is also something quite different and grand. For Emma was a success story of artistic silence intertwined with brilliant falsetto and masterful guitar work of unique timbre. Honest musings of rural satisfaction brought a music world to its knees in willing surrender and Bon Iver stood the victor for a new direction of “indie” music.
In Bon Iver, Justin and crew ensure all that their reign is supreme and just. Masters of timbre from the first song, something is just so powerful about those first few chords in “Perth”. As I listened my smile only got brighter. I can’t even understand how someone finds such a perfect tone for a guitar and matches it even more perfectly with just the right progression. It’s nothing else but masterful.
In that way, I can’t understand the entirety of the album at all; I mean, I can’t begin to understand how someone does something like this. How is every choice they make for every song so clearly the right one? The skeptic in me wanted to be certain that Perth and Calgary were the only good songs on the album, but the optimist in me beat the shit out of the skeptic, stood over his battered frame, spit, and said “I told you so!”
I was quite right about the sounds of Gayngs leaking into Bon Iver’s work. “Beth/Rest” reminds me a lot of the closing ballad, “Last Prom on Earth”, of Relayted. Again Bon Iver’s choice of tone becomes a focal point of an excellent piece of music. Opting for a fuller sound than For Emma the band employs a larger drum presence (contrasting the lone floor tom act of “Skinny Love”), more electric accompaniment, and the collaboration of other well-known artists like Colin Stetson. By his lonesome Mr. Stetson’s music is something to behold, but it just makes so much sense for him to join the Bon Iver crew for this go around.
I wish I knew more about music to give this album a better informed analysis. For me it’s enough to notice just how happy listening makes me, but the important thing to get out of all of this, is that I like (read: love) Bon Iver’s Bon Iver. Listen to it now for free, but when it’s released, spend the money.
While it is excellent news that the new Bon Iver album is streaming this very day, I had planned to write an opinion of Battles’ new album first. So here goes; I might have to keep it short so that I don’t explode before I write what I want to about the new Bon Iver album.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Battles and what they do with experimental/math rock. Mirrors is one of those albums that helped define my early, serious music appreciation. The sporadic, yet contained style of Battles is something to behold. In Mirrored, the beginning, middle and end flow so elegantly in their most intriguing fashion; the singles truly should remain part of the whole – a masterpiece.
Glass Drop does not disappoint. Without being exactly what I determined to expect, it is exactly what I think it should be. The band lost Tyondai Braxton on vocals, a defining point of Mirrored, but they do well without him. Going back to their root sound heard on their earlier EPs, Battles works through a more instrumental format while pinning some excellent vocal additions along the way. The guitar riffs in this album compliment those of Mirrored, while taking a direction and feeling all of their own.
If all you’re up for is the standard rock group with guitar, bass, vocals, and drums, then don’t come to Battles for an easy listen. Math rock is not for the feint of heart, but it is rewarding in its own ways. I wouldn’t fall asleep to it, but I would calmly sit down and listen to its majestic irregularity. Glass Drop is good progress for Battles; it keeps the distinctive parts of the band, and it goes deeper into a genre worth venturing into.
Whether or not I rushed through this album opinion dying to push through one about the Bon Iver album stream, the important thing to get out of all of this, is that I like Battles’ Glass Drop.
Posted in Liked Things on June 4, 2011
So let’s talk about things I really like and absolutely cannot wait to hear more of, specifically, Bon Iver’s sophomore album. A good while ago I picked up a single release, “Calgary”, and upon recent rediscovery in my library, I have to listen to it at least once a day. When that quota is met, I usually end up listening to it many more times.
I love just about everything Justin Vernon is a part of; from Bon Iver to his work on Volcano Choir and even into his appearances on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Naturally, his album coming out soon is giving me jitters. I just can’t wait much longer. In the mean time, though, “Calgary” will have to quench my thirst. You should check it out, too. There’s clearly the classic Bon Iver style of falsetto beauty, but it throws down a very full orchestra sound on top of his folksy sound heard on For Emma, Forever Ago. You can also hear some of the remnants of the sounds heard in Gayngs, another collaborative work of Justin’s. The harmonies are ballad-like and solid. The simple drumming politely keeps the groove charging. It’s fantastic and it’s hopefully just a taste of something spectacular coming later this June. Take a listen.
‘Tis the season to be atypical. How about a side dish of TV on the Radio to go with your post-rock Explosions in the Sky? Tunde Adebimpe and the TV on the Radio gang hit this one for a single, but that’s about all they pulled off. I can’t think of any more metaphors that clearly do not work together.
I enjoy some TV on the Radio every once in a while and usually when I do, it’s a little Return to Cookie Mountain that will get me going. At least there are some memorable songs in that album that I might click “repeat” for. Unfortunately, TV on the Radio’s new album, Nine Types of Light, isn’t all that spectacular. I listened through it once thinking that I hadn’t grasped it all on the first go around. When I listened to it again, my feeling of estrangement did not subside and I was left wondering where I had gone wrong in purchasing this album. The logic seemed sound: I’ve liked TV on the Radio before, I listened to the free single that the band sent around a couple weeks ago, I enjoyed the single, and then I purchased the album when it came out. When I finished the listen through, I noticed the single that I liked at the end of the album and was only really happy when I listened to that. It wasn’t the type of happy where I’ll run around like a lunatic frothing and foaming about how great TV on the Radio is, but the type of happy I get when I come across a decent song on Pandora that fits the exact parameters for what I would expect the music to sound like on the radio station I created. But that enjoyment was fleeting and the cold, hard fact that I had just spent money on a not-very-good album hit me in the jugular. I mean, if you really, really love TV on the Radio, purchase this album and enjoy it. Just don’t expect it to be Return to Cookie Mountain.
Well, this might be the first time, but the important thing to get out of all of this is that I didn’t really like Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio all that much. *Sad face*
It goes to show you how uninformed I am if I didn’t even realize there was a new Explosions in the Sky album out there to cherish. Severely behind the eight-ball, I just purchased Take Care, Take Care, Take Care a couple days ago. It was released April 26 in the US, so I was quite behind.
Do I like post-rock? Always. It shows me that musically we’re progressing. Somebody is doing something different with the standard garage band pieces and they want our popular music to move in their direction. It’s also not techno which I really, really, really, really hope is not the future of music. It’s cool, but please don’t tell me it’s the future. I’d much rather sit down and listen to post-rock or I’d like to create it someday in my post-post-post-post-rock band without a name as of late. We wanted to start a post-rock band, but I really wanted “wah” to be in it and we determined that post-rock would not allow “wah”, but post-post rock would. For some reason there was something wrong with being post-post-rock and since post-post-post-rock would again disallow “wah”, we decided to go with post-post-post-post-rock or quad-post-rock.
But I digress. Explosion’s new album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, despite a somewhat annoyingly redundant title at least to type out each time, is pretty awesome. I would probably say every other album by Explosion is “pretty awesome”. I appreciate in this album how Explosions dropped the heavy piano use that they employed in All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. They instead went back to mostly guitar work with their three guitar line-up. Most Explosions albums sound a bit the same in approach, but the contemplativeness that you get out of listening to their work is always well worth the ride. I love how you can enjoy it in whatever way you like. Joe Tangari from Pitchfork.com says it the best: “The emotion in it is ambiguous, and you can read whatever you want into it– the soundtrack to your rainy day might be the soundtrack to someone else’s overwhelming joy, and that too is important to [their music’s] appeal.”
My quoting of Pitchfork aside, the important thing to get out of all of this is that I like Take Care, Take Care, Take Care by Explosions in the Sky.
Goodness do I love free, streaming albums. Over the past week there have been two free album streams of bands I like. This could even challenge Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year” (See Andy Williams). What better way to study for finals is there than to listen to a new album online for free? Actually, there are much better ways because I found I was often very distracted by that, but I still enjoyed a lot.
Manchester Orchestra’s third album, Simple Math does not disappoint. Starting somewhat slow with “Deer”, the album then makes a sudden turn for the semi-hard tone that Manchester loves to work in. My favorites on the album were “Pensacola”, “April Fool”, and the single “Simple Math”. Before I woke up to realize the album was available for streaming, I purchased Simple Math on Amazon and was actually quite happy to only have that. Discovering the whole album after that teaser was simply fantastic.
Andy Hull is always pretty angry at something in his albums. I don’t know if I readily recall lyrics that are overwhelmingly joyous. But even so, his songs create a call to action or some sort of great awakening and you just want to jump aboard and pump your fist in a rally against…whatever the heck he’s rallying against. It helps also when the music sounds great. On a different note, a lot of the guitar work sounds almost exactly the same as the band’s prior album Mean Everything to Nothing. I’m wholly against that; it was interesting to hear something I’m familiar with even on a new album and expect what might be the musical response to a starting phrase.
Angry or not, the important thing to get out of all of this is that I like Simple Math by Manchester Orchestra. Check it out, it’s streaming on their website. http://www.columbiarecords.com/simplemath/
Posted in Album Opinions on May 1, 2011
There aren’t many free things in this world I appreciate more than music. Of course, I would love a free $1,000,000,000, but I’m talking about reality here. Fortunately for me and this blog about music, Fleet Foxes decided to stream their new album via the NPR website a few days before the album’s release. I listened to the album and then went to amazon to pre-order it. That’s how it went down. A direct relationship between listening for free and then spending hard-earned cash on a physical version of the album. Could I have ripped the album off the “interwebs” for free? Perhaps. But the real point is that I spent the money; it’s good.
Bands have to progress from album to album. If they don’t they look stale. If they change too much, they lose us completely. What’s important is this balance. For example, Radiohead maintains this balance quite well (or at least they did until the King of Limbs (but in their defense, King of Limbs wasn’t terrible, it just was not GREAT)). Fleet Foxes certainly maintained this balance well with Helplessness Blues. I can sense the Fleet Foxes I knew well whilst capturing the abundance of freshness in the album.
The crescendos aren’t redundant like Mumford and Sons, and are instead subtle and tasteful. Their harmonies are as perfect as ever and Robin Pecknold’s voice continues to sooth. “Helplessness Blues” is my favorite track on the album. It has a beautiful transition from straight acoustic guitar strumming to full band melody in the middle of the song. I couldn’t help but think of “White Winter Hymnal” from their earlier LP, Fleet Foxes. I especially admired the lead guitar work thrown over the latter portion of the song. It is in very typical Fleet Foxes style. Surprising for Fleet Foxes is an atonal section of “The Shrine/An Argument”, but it actually works well.
I wish I could write just how fantastic this album is, but my words could never do it justice (nor could they for any album). My inadequacy as a music analyst also does the album an injustice. But, the important thing to get out of all of this is that I like Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues. Go listen to it; it’s free to stream.