Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Motherfish #11- I'm an Asshat

Album of the Week

As many of you may be aware, tomorrow is April 1st, aka April Fool’s day. This year, however, the joke’s on me. I had a whole elaborate plan to write a “final post” claiming to be shut down by my university for encouraging the piracy of music and shit like that. And then I was gonna be all “LOL APRIL FOOLS DIPSHITS” and give you the review, which was a new release. BUT GUESS WHAT?! Today’s still MARCH. FUUUUUUU- Yeah, so I was just about to post that when I realized I had to write a whole new review, otherwise I’d look like an idiot. I do that enough already, so I figured the extra effort would be worth it. Also, it makes for a pretty good story because honestly, who doesn’t like hearing about me fucking something up? I blame it on being home. I’m home on spring break this week, and I’ve realized that being here is totally detrimental to my work ethic. I can’t get anything done. It’s great to be home and all, but seriously, I have shit to do. So, next week you’ll be getting the review that I had originally planned for today. What about today, you ask? Well I had to pull something out of my ass, which usually ends poorly for everybody (myself included) but I think this is actually going to be fun. Today’s band is one of my favorite bands to listen to for a lot of reasons, besides the fact that they are quite possibly the coolest dudes I’ve ever met.


The Mechanical Hand by Horse the Band

My relationship with Horse the Band is a unique and interesting one. It all began two years ago, when I was sitting at lunch with some friends. We had tickets to see Horse at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ, and were discussing what would be the most insane thing to do in the mosh pit during the infamous Cutsman breakdown. Thus was born the Phalanx, a set of motions comprised by myself and my friends Adam, Elie, and Lauren. Oh, if anyone else was at that specific lunch, sorry but I don’t remember you being there. Anyway, the Phalanx involved a slow rotation with your fist raised above your hear in the center of the pit, you and your companions all forming a circle (many people joined us that night) and once Nathan, Horse’s vocal master, starts saying the word “cut”, the fists become scissors on top of the head. Once the slow part of the breakdown ends, the brutality begins. That night, the very first Phalanx ended with my jaw being dislocated and my friend Mike ultimately needing stitches. But we were on top of the world. After the show, we told Erik, Lord Gold, the synth player, about our creation and the resulting injuries. He recommended that we go to the hospital, to which I replied “Nah, we’re going to Ihop. You should come”. So began a beautiful friendship. The Phalanx has grown and blossomed, and, many shows later, our relationship with Horse the Band has grown stronger. They are fucking awesome. It’s impossible to not be laughing your ass off the entire time you’re with them, no matter where you are or what you’re talking about. This sense of humor and an unquenchable thirst for fun are what make their music so entertaining to listen to. Horse’s sound is on the heavier side, David, a guitar player of near limitless talent, plays a lot in drop D tuning, which really brings out the lower sounds of a guitar when coupled with some nice distortion. Nathan’s voice is like listening to somebody pouring gravel into a volcano, basically. The addition of keys doesn’t lessen the impact of the guitar or vocals, rather they bring something fresh to the mix. You aren’t listening to some cookie-cutter shitty hXc band (that’s hard x core for those of you who don’t know).

The Mechanical Hand is one of the most solid, consistent albums out there right now. Even though it’s Horse’s second release of three (not counting EPs), it’ll always be my favorite. There’s something I forgot to mention. Erik has unlocked some sort of secret technique for making his synth sound exactly like an old 16 bit game system, namely Super Nintendo. Mechanical Hand opens with Birdo, the tale of the villain from Super Mario Bros. 2. Their first major release featured the song Cutsman, about Cutman from the Megaman series. I know what a lot of you might be thinking, “wow, two weeks of videogame music in a row? you’re an asshole with no life”. And while that’s not far from the truth, Horse offers much more than just modern adaptations of videogame songs. Though the subject matter is about videogames and their characters, the lyrics often have a deeper meaning to them. The song Manateen, my personal favorite, presents the depression and self loathing all teens have to face, and explores it through the perspective of a manatee, nature’s sea cow. One line sticks out in my mind: “I cut myself, hope to draw you in, but even the sharks pass by”. There’s a lot going on there. I could waste a lot of your time talking about what that line implies or what it means or whatever, but I won’t, because I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Afterall, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, that means your either reasonably smart, or a very determined dumbass. Either way, kudos to you. I realized I haven’t said much about the actual music. Here it goes. Mechanical Hand is a fast paced, balls to the wall album full of heavy yet melodic guitar riffs. Nathan’s vocal stylings compliment the music well, he knows when a deep growl is apropos versus a gutwrenching yell, and he always matches the energy of the music. The synth gives them depth and brings the retro videogame qualities of their lyrics to their sound. They are a high energy band that bring some serious fun, something you just don’t get anymore. Horse found a balance between being silly and being serious and has maintained that since their first record, something which many bands simply can’t do. One thing is for certain, Horse puts themselves 100% into every song, on the album and when they perform. Seeing them live is nothing short of an experience. They have a DVD you can buy, which is totally worth it because funneling alcohol into your ass never gets old.


Like I said, there were some special circumstances surrounding today’s review and why it was up so late. That being said, I’m sort of glad it happened because it gave me an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite bands. Favorite in the sense that they’re comfortable in the sound they’ve established but not afraid to grow from album to album, and they love what they’re doing. They’ve put on an amazing show every single time I’ve seen them, which is quite a few, and they’re all around awesome dudes. There’s nothing bad to be said about them, except for Nathan’s mustache. Sorry dude.

Some Horse the Band for you:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Motherfish #10- Many Levels of Experimenting

Album of the Week

As the title suggests, I’m experimenting a lot with today’s review. Adding in the Youtube link so you can hear a track off of the album, and reviewing an album outside of my traditional sphere of listening. So let’s get to it. Videogames and music are two of the biggest parts of my life. Often times I find crossovers between them; bands doing covers of songs from videogames, or soundtracks from games being available on CD. The Minibosses, the NESkimoes, the Black Mages, all game-based rock bands, all excellent musicians. And now, add Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, MF Doom, and Mike Jones to that list. What the fuck? Ok, bear with me. This week’s album is something totally different. Let me start by saying that just because it isn’t my favorite genre doesn’t mean I hate rap. I dislike a lot of hip-hop and R&B, but I understand its place in the music world. Rap, however, I appreciate. A talented rapper who has more to talk about than bitches and hoes and shooting bitches and smoking hoes and whatnot is just as legitimate of a musician as any guitar player or singer. There are a lot of talented rappers and rap groups out there. Unfortunately most of them are still on the underground scene, meaning you need to really dig for them. And you’ll usually have to dig through bullshit in its most condensed form. But hey, you gotta break some eggs if you want to make some money. I’m no expert when it comes to rap. Far from it in fact. That being said, I think I can bring a unique perspective to the album. If you haven’t guessed yet, this week’s album is rap, but it has an interesting twist to it. Skeptical? I don’t blame you.

Ocarina of Rhyme by Team Teamwork

Ocarina of Rhyme has a pretty simple concept: take established rap songs by noted artists such as those mentioned above, and lay the lyrics over remixed versions of the memorable songs from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. That was the goal, and Team Teamwork more than accomplished it. I usually like to start a review by talking about the band’s history or something like that, BUT I honestly know nothing about Team Teamwork and I couldn’t find any information online. So, instead, I’m going to talk a little bit about Ocarina of Time, one of my favorite videogames of all time, and the music in it. OoT’s soundtrack was composed by Koji Kondo, the man responsible for the Legend of Zelda music since the very beginning. The soundtrack has the Zelda feel that fans have come to expect, but the nature of the game required something beyond the retro feel of the original games. The music in OoT played a fundamental role in the story and the game is considered the first non-dancing game to feature music creation as a part of its game play. Each of the many areas of the game world featured its own background music with its own flavor; the mountain area had a caveman-esque theme featuring bongos, and the lake area had a very smooth, almost glittery sound. I can clearly remember waking up early before school when I was in 4th grade, which basically meant waking up at 5 (can’t do that shit anymore), and playing OoT for an hour every morning. Just this winter I completed what might be my 900th play through. Not really, but you get the point, I’m a huge nerd and I have been most of my life. What makes those memories so fond is the same reason why I continue to make playing this game at very least an annual event; the game is immersive. The Zelda team knows how to build a world where the player actually cares about the characters and what happens to them, and in Ocarina of Time this immersion is created by the rich soundtrack.

Rap as an art form is varied. It has to be. You can only speak words to rhythm so many ways before it gets boring; so new elements have to constantly be introduced to hold the interest of the audience. Team Teamwork had a wide array of sounds and material to draw on when delving into Ocarina of Time, and combine that with the plethora of rappers (both good and bad) out there, and there is the potential for a big fucking explosion as the album crashes and burns. But, they managed to pull it off. Which is good, because Ocarina of Time is one of the few things from my childhood I still consider holy, and if they ruined it I would have had to rain horror down on them full of such hate and fury that it could fuel a thousand dying suns for millennia. But they did a great job, so no worries. There’s not much to say about the rapping. It’s rapping. Though some of the songs they chose to lay over the OoT soundtrack are a little more mainstream than I would like (i.e. they’re about hoes and cars and tits), they’re in an environment where that doesn’t matter as much. When I listen to Ocarina of Rhyme, I’m putting it on to hear the music from a game I love creatively spliced with something contemporary. Team Teamwork remixed the OoT samples, slowing some down, taking bits and pieces from others, and overall did a really excellent job of adapting the classic videogame songs to back the rap vocals. I’m not too keen on the Clipse song, the Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, or the Common track, but they still fit the theme of the album and are mixed well. The only song I actually don’t like is the Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg track. This song is set to the famous treasure chest sample, which I think is too short to be used for a whole song so it gets a little repetitive, but in a strange way it suits the song. The Jay-Z track might be my favorite. It uses the theme song of the fucking owl who spends thirty fucking years explaining shit to you that even when it’s your first time playing you could figure out on your own unless you’re some kind of idiot who thinks puggles are cute dogs and you have raw bacon for a brain.

Overall this album is super entertaining. It shows a lot of creativity on the part of Team Teamwork to put something like this together. The concept is fairly original (rap mash ups aren’t a new thing, but as far as I know nobody’s gotten any notoriety for mixing rap and videogame music) and its execution is brilliant. One thing I was afraid of when I first approached this album was that it would sound too gimmicky, like I think Gym Class Heroes can be. Obviously including the Ocarina of Time soundtrack is a gimmick, but each track comes off sounding fresh and intentional. When I listen to the album I have a tendency to forget that the lyrics are from established songs and not purposely created for this album, which is what I think Team Teamwork wanted. I haven’t been able to find the album anywhere (I got it from a friend), so if you’re interested, email me or check out Team Teamwork at http://www.myspace.com/teamteamwork.

And for your enjoyment:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Motherfish #9- I'm so Damn Hungry I Can't Come Up with a Title

Album of the Week

Left 4 Dead is an insanely awesome game. Being able to just kick back and shoot the shit out of hordes of zombies is exactly what I’ve wanted out of a videogame for a long time, and finally the gods of gaming delivered. Thank you. And thanks to the people who have emailed me some ideas for the site logo, I’ve gotten some good ones. I think the way it’s going to work out is that I’m going to choose one for the website and another is going to be on the stickers that I’m planning on printing up. Pretty cool, huh? In other news, my bed has becoming exponentially more creaky, and it drives me insane. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in a week and a half because every time I blink my eyes I can hear the squealing of tortured metal coming from the springs. It remains a mystery to me as to why my roommate hasn’t gotten up in the middle of the night and furiously beaten my bed (and, by default, me) to a pile of rubble with a sledgehammer. Hey, I’ll knock on wood. Here we go.

Act II by The Dear Hunter.
For starters, that’s not a typo. I’m talking about The Dear Hunter, not Deer Hunter. Deer hunter is a very good band, but I think The Dear Hunter is better.(movie reference anyone?) Pitchfork, lick my nuts. The Dear Hunter, on the other hand, is a fucking awesome band. Last week I mentioned how this week we would be seeing a familiar face, metaphorically. The star of The Dear Hunter is a one Casey Crescenzo of former The Receiving End of Sirens fame. Quick disclaimer, The Dear Hunter is nothing like TREOS. If you listen to Act II and Between the Heart and the Synapse (TREOS’ first major label release) side by side, you can hear Casey’s influence stylistically, but the two bands are fundamentally different. The Dear Hunter is more experimental, Casey plays around with instrumentation and uses a lot of varied song structures. Act II is, as the name implies, the second album in a series TDH is doing following a central plot.
I’m Anthony, Tony’s friend. He asked me to do this part because he figured I knew more about it. I don’t really know if I do, but I love this album and I know some random assorted facts about the band. Anyway, Casey Crescenzo is THE man, having seen him play several times in TREOS and the Dear Hunter I have walked away from every performance astounded by how godly his voice sounds and how each song is flawless. That being said, Act II provides even more evidence of this man’s greatness. The album introduces it self with a 30 second overture then comes in hard with a heavy hitting intro riff in The Procession. Nearly every song on the album features an assortment of instruments including the xylophone, violin and assorted horns. Act II flows together very nicely, yet each song brings a different flavor to the album. Personally, my favorite sing-along song is Red Hands, the song is about the main character confessing his love to a prostitute (Miss Leading). Now that doesn’t sound all that touching but the lyrics and Casey’s voice makes this song just stand out from all the others. Barring the ridiculous notes Casey starts to belt at the end, you just want to get everyone in the room to sing it with you. Interesting fact, the last song in Act II ends with the same piano from the end of the last song in Act I. In all honesty, I can’t say I did the album justice. Go get the album, listen to it and bask in its greatness.

I asked my friend Anthony to help contribute to today’s post because he’s been listening to TDH for a lot longer than I have and I trust his opinion. Everything he said is spot on. The album has great flow from song to song, which is something I value in an album. If you’re going to take anything out of this review its that The Dear Hunter (which I just typed as “Hunger” because I’m fucking starving and I’m going to Wendy’s for the first time in close to 6 months) is breaking a lot of boundaries and trying a lot of new things. Keep your eye on them because Casey has a lot up his sleeve for 2009.

Ok kids I’m really hungry now so let’s keep this short. Act II is awesome. Casey is God. The Dear Hunter is fantastic. Email me if you’d like the album. Next week will be a lot of fun. Until then, keep breathing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Motherfish #8- I Am Jack's Amazing Album

Album of the Week

For those of you who don’t know, the title is a Fight Club reference, which is where today’s band got their name. But first, a quick update. I’ve solicited the help of my friends, once again. Only this time, it’s for designing the future logo of the site. If anybody is interested, email any questions or submissions to motherfishmusic@gmail.com. Many thanks go out to all of the wonderful people who have already either expressed interest or even sent in some submissions. Keep em coming folks. Before I start with today’s album, I need to get off topic for a minute just to mention Long Island. I spent the weekend there with some friends from school, and it’s an interesting place. I regret not being able to visit Bryan at Hofstra (Bryan frequently offers me assistance with various tasks regarding the site), but I did get to see The Watchmen. I’m a huge fan of the graphic novel, so I approached the movie with cautious optimism. What did I get out of it? Huge, blue, glowing, COCK. Dr. Manhattan’s dick was the star of the show, and was played by the biggest penis in Hollywood: Bono. All kidding aside, that thing was everywhere. The movie as a whole did a great job of keeping faithful to the book with some minor differences to make it slightly more understandable for those who haven’t read the graphic novel. The intro was awesome, I will say that. And they got rid of Nite Owl’s shitty little hover scooters at the end, which was a good call. All in all, it was a great action movie if you’re not into comics, and a great adaptation if you are. I enjoyed it. Time to get down to business.

Forgive Durden Presents Razia’s Shadow: A Musical

Who the hell is Forgive Durden? Good question. Let’s find out. Forgive Durden is from Seattle, Washington (yeah). There’s not much to say about them, honestly. Their first album was released in 2006, and I’ve never heard it. Today’s album was actually written after the band broke up. The story of Razia’s Shadow is that once everybody quit the band aside from singer/guitarist Thomas Dutton, he decided that he was going to continue writing songs. With the aid of his brother and the drummer from Gatsby’s American Dream, he put together a musical. A legit musical. There’s singing and orchestration and when I’m listening to it I can imagine dancing and stage directions (I can tell you that because I’m secure in my sexuality). So wait, have I decided to give up reviewing good music and start reviewing shitty bands who try and be clever and creative and write concept albums because they’re such terrible songwriters that whatever pathetic meaning lies beneath the shallow and pedantic lyrics is such a great big pile of bullshit that they need to build a story to convey some sort of self- established importance? No. Razia’s Shadow is good. In fact, it’s great. I would even go so far as to say it’s awesome. It has a kick ass story that’s both creative and interesting, something society today just really can’t get the hang of. Basically, it starts at the beginning of the world when a character called O the Scientist creates Earth. One of his angels gets jealous and fucks shit up, and O gets pissed and banishes him to the dark side of the world. Fast forward a thousand years later, and we find ourselves following a prince who lives in the darkness but believes himself to be the fulfillment of a prophecy to unite the two halves of the world. I didn’t do the story justice, but you get the point. The songs segue from one into another by way of brief narration at the end of each track. The narration helps you follow the story (useful) but doesn’t distract or break the flow of the album as a whole. Now let’s get into the meaty meat of it.

Forgive Durden (and by Forgive Durden I mean Thomas Dutton, his brother, and the drummer from GAD) put together something exceptionally unique with Razia’s Shadow. It’s like nothing else I own, which is quite a bit of music. Although it’s a musical, it doesn’t sound like you’re listening to Legally Blonde or Rent or some other musical shitstorm that makes you want to slowly eviscerate yourself with a plastic dinosaur. The album is orchestrated, yes, but it’s not overbearing, high school band orchestrated. They kept the core of the band, guitar, bass, and drum kit, though these instruments aren’t the central pieces to the music; they’ve added strings, horns, piano, and a variety of other percussion instruments. Often when bands attempt to incorporate instruments like this into their music, it comes off as over produced, cheesy, fake, stupid, annoying, and terrible. Thomas & Co. demonstrate a high level of musical understanding, the songs are complex and well written yet catchy enough that you love to come back to them. There are a few ideas which repeat through the album, certain lines used in multiple songs to help progress the plot, but each song has its own unique charm. The opener Genesis sets up the rest of the album thematically, but also displays incredible energy; the rest of the tracks fail to disappoint in this aspect. Each song has importance, there’s no filler. Even the filler, the Thousand Year, Minute Long Interlude, is significant to the story. The album plays with some musical conventions as well. We have the love song, the comic relief, and the tragic ending. All of it worth listening to. BUT HOLY SHIT there are like >9000 characters in my plot summary?! Who plays them all?! I’m glad you asked! Forgive Durden enlisted the help of a whole slew of big names to play the cast of characters. No, not Brad Pitt and Deborah Messing. The cast list includes Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter, Lizzie Huffman of Man In The Blue Man, Max Bemis of Say Anything, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco, Greta Salpeter of the Hush Sound, and many more. Fuck, that’s a lot of people. The amount of talent on this album makes me shit bricks; it’s akin to the amount of sodium in one of those single serving Chef Boyardee cups, you really couldn’t imagine it being possible.

Forgive Durden Presents Razia’s Shadow: A Musical is fucking awesome. The best part is that you can listen to it. I know that sounds silly, but I’m being serious. It’s not uncommon for a band to attempt to accomplish so much in an album and how listenable it is suffers because of it. Razia’s Shadow is an experience, and I recommend it to everybody at least once. Again, if you need help getting the music, go ahead and email motherfishmusic@gmail.com and I’ll hook you up. Join me next week when somebody I already mentioned returns to take the spot light! Until then, keep breathing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Motherfish #7- And I Now Hate You For Your Long Ass Name

New Music Tuesday!

I need to take a second to just mention how fucking cool my friends are. Because I’m kind of a jackass, I reviewed Bomb the Music Industry!’s Get Warmer like two weeks before their new album hit, and I don’t want to double up on bands I’ve reviewed so soon, so I had no idea what to review for today (Scrambles is awesome, by the way, and if you enjoyed my review of Get Warmer or you’re a fan of BTMI, pick it up). Not sure of what to do, I mentioned on Twitter that I was in need of an album. Within minutes, I had a message from my friend Bryan with a list of ideas. Shortly after I decided which album I wanted to review, my other friend Dom went through hell and high water (full of shit) to get it to me so that I didn’t have to purchase it with my currently empty checking account. Thanks guys.

The Century of Self by …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

If you were to take all of the members of AYWKUBTTOD, or Trail of Dead as my lazy ass will refer to them as from now on, and put them in a room with no windows and no chairs and leave them in there for five days and four nights without food or water, they couldn’t come up with a more appropriate band name. The way I understand it is that they had some random weird name or whatever, and after they would play shows all of their fans would be so starved for the band’s sweet, sweet music that they would mercilessly slaughter everyone in between them and the next venue. Or something like that. Now, that story is ridiculous, but if you know Trail of Dead’s music at all, then you were just sitting in your chair nodding and thinking to yourself “Yeah, I can understand that”. What makes that story plausible is how good Trail of Dead really are. Typically they are considered an art rock band along the lines of the Arcade Fire, and I can understand that. However, that doesn’t quite convey what you’re getting in to when you pick up one of their albums, especially The Century of Self. While Century is still rooted in the artistic side of the rock genre, this album marks Trail of Dead’s first release under their own direction after their split from Interscope. What that gives us, the fans, is a record much truer to the sound that Trail of Dead is aiming for; they were able to stick to the art rock that established them, but at the same time delve deeper into straight up punk, progressive, and even folk territories. Let me put this out there: Trail of Dead are master songwriters. Songs vary in length from around two minutes to just over six minutes, so if you average the album you get around four minutes. Each of these songs is a world in and of it self. Here’s an example. What might be my favorite track on the album is track three, Isis Unveiled. The song starts out strong and fast with a lot of high energy and powerful guitar/drum combo, but then it slows down, the guitar diminishes and the drums and bass stand front and center beneath light, melodic vocals. This slower rhythm winds down and begins to fade out, but then the guitar kicks back in and you get hit in the face with a wall of sonic bricks for an epic reprise of the beginning riff for a finisher. And then there’s Bells of Creation, which could easily be a Rush song, but in a good way. It’s got that 80’s prog piano sound that Geddy Lee & Co had which catapulted them to fame. You know, before they lost their balls and got shitty. Ok, I know it’s hard to imagine Rush before they got shitty, but work with me here, try and pretend.

If you want a pretty good idea of what you’re going to hear when you listen to The Century of Self, think of Neon Bible if Domesitca-era Cursive had written it, so basically a little more hard-hitting. What I like about Century is that it plays with a lot of different emotions. Listening to it is almost a theatrical experience with each song being a different act. Well, maybe each song is a scene. A 13 act play is worse than high school theater. Honestly, if you’re having any doubts about your life, go see an amateur play because you will very quickly make up your mind about whether life is worth living or not. And though the Arcade Fire/Cursive hybrid is a fairly accurate description of what you’re getting with this album, it’s still not 100% perfect. There are still some folkier, almost Springsteen-esque moments on the album that aren’t captured in the metaphor. Ultimately, Trail of Dead’s latest release has a lot of complexities to it, so it’s not the best thing to throw on if you need to focus on something (like writing an album review) because the music is so engaging that unless you have uncontrollable ADHD or two heads you can’t listen and perform some other task that takes more concentration than shitting. So, as per tradition, I shall end with some sort of comparison. Umm, well, The Century of Self is like the perfect food, something that will satisfy your mood no matter what your taste buds are craving; like finally being able to eat grilled filet of flounder with some parsley and oregano with a light marinade in strawberry jelly and covered in chocolate chips without people looking at you like you’re some sort of freak. I just like to be creative, ok?

That does it for March’s New Music Tuesday. I like how I make myself seem more important by capitalizing New Music Tuesday. Yeah. Well, to sum it up, The Century of Self is really great, but it can be a lot to handle because Trail of Dead draws on a lot of different influences, so I recommend it strongly to those with an open mind or fans of the art rock genre, or both. Join me next week when I expand on my theatrical nonsense! Until then, keep breathing.