Posts Tagged ‘post-rock’

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve all but given up on Angels and Airwaves. In my opinion, it was cool in 2006 when the first album came out—and then they put out the same album three times after that. I hear you out there, die-hard AVA lovers (you know who you are), protesting my opinions: “All the albums are really different, you’re just not listening thoroughly,” “Every album is ingenious in its own right,” etc. etc. etc. Sorry, I just think the Love albums sound like uninventive variations on previous material and consistently tried too hard to be epic and grandiose and relevant and life-changing.

You may wonder, then, why I would even bother listening to the band’s latest release, especially one with a title this ridiculous. Nevertheless, I gave the Stomping the Phantom Brake Pedal EP a try. Call it nostalgia, or boredom, or just the fact that it popped up on the front page of the iTunes store. I don’t know why I did it exactly, but I previewed the album and eventually downloaded it.

Verdict? Meh. Mostly—key word here, mostly—the album is a disappointment. On second thought, it’s really not a disappointment, because I didn’t expect anything in the first place. That’s generally my life motto: don’t expect much, and you won’t get disappointed. It makes for a really rewarding and fulfilling life. Not. Back to the point: Stomping the Phantom Brake Pedal consists of three songs that are really “evolved” compositions from the musical score of the band’s Love movie (this band is really into love, aren’t they?). Before we get to those tracks, let us casually cast aside the latter half of the EP, which is made up of six remixes of songs from the second Love album. For one, they just sound… not that cool. Secondly, why would I enjoy remixes of songs I already don’t care for? They’re pretty forgettable, all things considered. That’s just me, though—if you are indeed a fan of those original songs, (greetings again AVA die-hards!) I suppose you’d probably enjoy the remixes.

Back to the first three tracks. Excuse me, reels. We’ve got to be hipsterly correct here. Wait… I should patent that term, that’s a good one. But again, back to the point—the first three songs. Tracks 2 and 3 (reels 5 and 6, confusingly) are instrumental tracks, showcasing a more techno/electronica/industrial sound than AVA usually offers. Interesting, but not something that’s going to change my opinion of the band entirely.

Then we arrive at the first track—reel 1, subtitled “Diary.” It’s a shame “Diary” leads off this EP, because it is the definite high point and makes the rest of the album a letdown if listening chronologically. The song starts out in typical AVA fashion; long intro, droning synths, a distorted backing beat. Then, at the 3:30 mark, it breaks into a nice groovy drum pattern courtesy of new drummer Ilan Rubin, formerly of Nine Inch Nails (so that’s where that industrial influence came from!), with simple piano notes above it. Eventually, frontman Tom Delonge’s voice appears over this pattern. Usually this is the point where most AVA songs succumb to a lack of variety and sound a bit ridiculous. Not the case this time. “Diary” places Tom’s vocals in the back of the mix, muddying and stretching them over the groove, resulting in a pleasing post-rock feel that suits the band, in my opinion, quite well.

Let’s be clear: I’m not praising “Diary” because I think it is a particularly groundbreaking or mind-blowing song. What “Diary” provides is a change of direction—a change of direction, finally, for a band that needs a breath of fresh air in their material. I’m praising “Diary” for being something different than what I’ve heard this band creating for the past six years and three full-length albums. The post-rock direction of this song—especially putting that whiny Delonge vocal back further in the mix—is where I would like to see Angels and Airwaves go in the future.

Will this happen? Not likely, since “Diary” is simply a reel, an evolved piece of musical score from that dratted movie. There’s no reason to suspect they’ll make more songs in this vein. I’m holding out hope, though, that Mr. Rubin’s new influence will make a difference. In the meantime I’m going to go listen to Tom in Enema of the State like it’s 1999.

~ J.M.

To say that I missed the musical-releases-of-2008 boat would be quite the understatement.  While I was listening to the newest Mark Hoppus podcasts and catching up on crucial Drive-Thru Records releases The Out_Circuit released their sophomore album Pierce The Empire With A Sound, and I’m just now realizing the massive sound that somehow never made its way into my headphones until recently.

There aren’t many instances where I can say that I like a musician’s side-project more than their original band, but Nathan Burke’s The Out_Circuit is on a whole ‘nother level than his original post-hardcore band, Frodus (of which he played bass and sang in from 1997-1999).  The Out_Circuit is mainly the work of Nathan Burke (vocals, guitar, bass, keys), but also features a kind of unappreciated-post-hardcore/math-rock-supergroup who were really more of contributors rather than members: Andy Haram (Haram) and Matt Johnson (Roadside Monument) both on drums, Bob Massey on guitar, Chaz Barber (Brahm) on keys, and Paul Michel and Kevin Lamiell (Haram) both on bass.

After The Out_Circuit’s debut release in late 2003, Burn Your Scripts Boys, Nathan Burke packed up his home-base in Washington, D.C. and moved with his wife Rachel Burke (originally of Beauty Pill, but who is also featured on the groove-soaked track “Across the Light”) to Seattle, Washington.  Nathan was still determined on recording another album for The Out_Circuit before the move, but he wasn’t willing to compromise his new “Seattle-living” as he explained in an interview with Stereo Subversion, “This time around I had a lot of other responsibilities I didn’t have before – wife, kid, job, etc. – and what was most important for me was to not compromise those in order to make a record.  Music is still important to me, but it doesn’t define my worth.  I really got down to business when I worked on this thing because I had to.”

The Out_Circuit Pierce the Empire with a Sound

The first thing I noticed after listening through this album for the first time were the dynamics.  This trade mark juxtaposition of swooning atmosphere and harsh distortion follows throughout every song on Pierce The Empire With A Sound.  Just the same, the album starts off fierce with “Come Out Shooting” and really sets the mood for the entire album as it showcases Nathan’s harsh and sometimes guttural yelling as well as his surprisingly clean and soothing vocals in the calm chorus.  Later in the album, the songs “We”, “Scarlet”, and (probably the tracks most popular song) “New Wine” are among my favorite lighter-songs from the entire album.  They provide the perfect soundtrack for meditating (or studying for finals and writing papers of which I did both).  As if Nathan’s performance and musicianship isn’t enough to make this album a solid choice – it also features contributions from Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue and Teppei Teranshini.  Kensrue picked up main vocals on the hauntingly driven “The Contender” which seems to unexpectedly cut short at the end, and aside from a few keyboard duties, Teranshini produced and mixed the entire album as well.  Easily Pierce The Empire With A Sound’s heaviest song, “The Fall of Las Vegas” paints an eerie picture of a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas with droning, seventies-style synth and Sean Ingram’s (Coalesce) familiar hoarse shouting.  Although The Out_Circuit is considered mostly post-hardcore, it’s astonishing to notice that most (except for “Come Out Shooting,” “The Contender,” and “New Wine”) of Pierce The Empire With A Sound’s tracks are structurally built on from keyboards and synths – a pretty rare class of instruments as the basis for song structure in such a heavy record.

Overall, Pierce The Empire With A Sound is an album that transcends the typical post-hardcore sound and delivers something for any type of listener – from the technical musician hoping for a few poly-rhythms to the exhausted college student trying not to stab his computer screen – it’s a solid listen and a real shame that I hadn’t been turned on to it earlier.

~ D.B.

As it turns out, the three albums I’ve picked have no album titles yet, or even as much as a concrete release date. I’d like to think that this only heightens the anticipation, though.  Yeah.  That’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Bad boys? Who are you guys kidding?

Is that my Dad’s garage?

Alternative:  Jimmy Eat World

Considering this album is most likely to be released first in my list for 2013 and there is still so little actually known about it – I’m wildly surprised.  I always find it fascinating when bands have their new material leaked unintentionally before the release date, whether it be by some computer-network-savvy fan or an inside job by the label.  It seems, though, that Jimmy Eat World is playing it smart by staying relatively quiet throughout the whole writing, recording, mixing, and now mastering process of their eighth studio album.  Fortunately we do know two things: they are without a label, and unlike most unsigned bands the engineer/producer, Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures), isn’t just some kid with Pro Tools and a “studio” in his parents’ attic.

Punk:  The Story So Far

Look at all of those pop-punk sheep.

Look at all of those pop-punk sheep.

It’s been about a year and a half (June 21, 2011) since the release of The Story So Far’s debut full-length, Under Soil And Dirt, and like everyone else that listens to anything even remotely close to pop-punk, I’m still listening to every track.  To read that many are saying their upcoming sophomore album could leave a mark in not only the pop-punk community but the alternative genre as well is pretty impressive for a band without a Wikipedia page.  Since Under Soil And Dirt took at least a good six months to really grab any attention outside of their fan base, I can only expect the same for this upcoming release.  Luckily, if there is one album in 2013 that I don’t have to worry about being a flopping mess it’s this one.  Even if The Story So Far only reach the most minimal of expectations, this sophomore debut will still leave a hot and steamy mark on pop-punk.

Post-Rock:  Moving Mountains

Moving Mountains (and their furly beards)

Moving Mountains (and their furly beards)

Drawing direct influence from the huge powers known as Thrice and labelmates The Appleseed Cast, I’m surprised Moving Mountains aren’t a whole lot more popular than they are currently.  They certainly haven’t been hiding in the studio until recently.  Touring almost non-stop for two years with anyone from The Fall of Troy to Straylight Run would get the attention of a whole slew of scenes, but it’s my hopes that their first full-length since May 2011 will get them all the attention they deserve.  Josh Kirby will be replacing guitarist Frank Graniero on Moving Mountains’ third full-length which could prove to be a risky move since Frank recorded guitar on the their last three releases (Foreword, Waves, and New Light).  Luckily, founding members Gregory Dunn (vocals/guitar) and Nicholas Pizzolato (drums) are still on the bill and will, almost without a doubt, be able to blow my mind away for a third time.

~ D.B.

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A solitary morning drive, an austere overcast sky, withered trees lurching like knotted fingers across the rolling Pennsylvanian hills…

And that’s about as far as I’ll go with this hippie-dippie drivel. But that general setting—a cloudy morning, driving home on back roads—was indeed the time and place in which I listened in full to my latest “recent discovery,” The Album Leaf’s first full-length, An Orchestrated Rise to Fall. The albums poignant instrumental compositions proved an apt soundtrack for the lonely drive back to my humble abode.

The Album Leaf is really just one guy—Jimmy LaValle. We all know that anyone named Jimmy must be awesome, so it makes sense that LaValle’s music is of a high caliber. He recorded and released An Orchestrated Rise to Fall all the way back in 1999. Legend has it that Jónsi, frontman of preeminent Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, picked up one of the early Album Leaf recordings in a record store and liked it so much that he asked Jimmy LaValle to open for Sigur Rós on their next tour, exposing The Album Leaf’s music to a much wider audience and cementing LaValle as a legitimate creative force in the post-rock world.

My exposure to instrumental music is fairly limited—Explosions in the Sky, Andy McKee, Sigur Rós themselves, and a small smattering of others are all I’ve taken the time to really listen to. Now I’d have to add The Album Leaf to that list, because this record is worth hearing. One of my favorite parts about it is the percussion—in the songs that contain any, that is—and the way it doesn’t resort to Postal-Service-like quips and gurgles as backing tracks, like you might expect. Instead, the drum sounds (whether they’re played by a random percussionist or LaValle himself, I have no idea) are completely realistic, giving the album a more organic, full-band sound. Opening track “Wander” is a good example. If that’s a drum machine, The Album Leaf sure has me fooled.

My favorite tracks on the album are definitely “We Once Were (One)” and “We Once Were (Two).” They utilize a mournful synth part that really is perfect for driving alone, as cheeky as that may sound. “We Once Were (Two)” brings in the drums where “We Once Were (One)” leaves them out, providing an excellent backdrop for those keyboard segments. More melancholy acoustic-based songs like “Airplane” and “September Song” are equally memorable. The album ends with “Lounge Act (Two),” incorporating brushed percussion and a strange distorted voice part (I hesitate to call it a vocal track) that at times sounds very much like Radiohead.

An Orchestrated Rise to Fall made a distinctive moment out of an otherwise boring commute. Call me a sap if you wish, but I was—dare I say it?—moved. Remarkable, I know. The next lonesome morning drive I take, I’ll put on The Album Leaf again. It’s not often that a good album can make such an impression upon first listen.

~ J.M.