Monday, April 27, 2009

Motherfish #15- Folly a Ducks

Album of the Week, sort of

Because of the nature of how I write this blog, updating weekly discussing the music that I want to and only featuring new music once a month, all of the music I’ve talked about so far I liked. It makes sense if you think about it. Why would I waste time talking about bad music? But, then a friend of mine specifically requested I review something I don’t like. And, well, in the very beginning of Motherfish I said I would talk about bad music. Plus, as a reviewer, it’s important to play both sides of the field. But more so than that: being able to form an unbiased opinion is something you need to function in society. I’ve met some pretty stupid people here at college, which seems odd. Well, the reason why stupid people get into college is because they’re book smart but lacking entirely in common sense or reason. They’re stupid because they are so deeply ingrained in their own opinion that they believe it is some sort of divine providence laid upon us mere mortals. They come off as ignorant and basically dumb. This may come as a shock to some, but there are people like that everywhere, and the best you can do is smile, walk away, and hope that some horrible tragedy befalls their cursed existence sooner or later. The point is, objectivity is a useful skill. Keeping an open mind not only allows you to experience new things (and possibly enjoy them) but it makes you a much more pleasant person to be around. I mean, I was walking into Panera Bread to meet somebody for lunch and there was a woman with a little girl behind me, so I held the door. She then turned to me and said “What, you think that just because I’m a woman, I can’t hold a door?” Seriously, what the fuck. And now I proudly present a review of something I don’t like.

Folie A Deux by Fall Out Boy

Everybody knows Fall Out Boy. Even my parents. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being mainstream. I have no problems with any band who can make shit-tons of cash playing their music. I personally tend to stray away from mainstream bands only because the demands placed on them by the major record labels tend to stifle creativity and innovation. Suffice it to say, my problems with FOB lie not in the size of their fan base, but rather in everything they live for. Maybe that’s a little unfair. I don’t know them as people, so rather than say that they ARE a bunch of douche bags, I’m just going to ASSUME I’m right. I’d like to make some remark about how FOB’s latest release, Folie A Deux, should be more aptly titled Generic Radio Pop Rock for Girls with No Tits, but I really can’t because Fall Out Boy has some sort of predisposition to hate the English language and the rules that make it function. Folie A Deux is a little more tame than previous albums, I must say. But I will never remember a song called Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet. Or Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes. Mostly because I’m too embarrassed to admit I know them, but also because they’re long and make no sense. Usually bands don’t go out of their way to make their fans forget the names of their songs. But Fall Out Boy abstains, courteously. They started a new trend, something I like to call the “The More Obscure and Irrelevant I Name My Songs and Albums, the More Hip People Will Think I Am” theory. Surprisingly, it doesn’t work. When I review an album, I’ll put it on while I read or waste my life on the internet, and I’ll keep a notepad next to my computer to jot down random ideas I have.
This is how my note for today began:

Let’s get into the music, which is where the album really sucks. Ok first track, generic FOB sounding song with generic FOB vocal melodies. The drum quality is pretty good, and I actually had moderately high expectations for the first 3:13 of the album. When the “Detox just to eat cocks” breakdown started, I jotted down that note. Then the song ended and I expected another twelve tracks of mediocre pop rock for high school students. I was totally wrong. I Don’t Care, the uniquely named second track on the album sounds like a shitty punk band trying to emulate the shitty dance-rock vibe of the late 80’s. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what it is. Imagine if Dead or Alive, the creative engine behind the 1985 smash hit You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), suddenly decided that they wanted to record a new album, and they wanted it to sound as horrible as possible. That’s what I Don’t Care sounds like. Yeah. Anway, after that song I hoped the worst was over. Apparently Fall Out Boy wants to punish their fans even more. The next song, She’s My Winona, draws influence from a source even more absurd than a terrible 80’s one hit wonder. At 3:23, Fall Out Boy reaches into Walt Disney’s frozen asshole and pulls out a modulation (key change for those not musically inclined) which would feel right at home in Beauty and the Beast or Pocahontas. Well according to Fall Out Boy, Disney was on to something, so in homage they modulate a second time. Because the first time when I thought I was listening to children’s musical theater wasn’t convincing enough. ‘But wait!’ fans of Fall Out Boy call out to me, ‘my favorite part of listening to Fall Out Boy is the way the lyrics really touch me!’, to which I reply ‘show me on the doll where the lyrics touched you?’ and then they cry. Well, let’s take a look at these lyrics, that are apparently so great that they make terrible music worth listening to. “Head like a steel trap, wish I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t, I don’t”. I did not add a single “I didn’t” except for the one I keep repeating in my head in a futile attempt to convince myself I never really listened to this album. Want to see some more? How about this little gem: “Fly your cameras in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care”. Wow, I didn’t see that coming. Really. I figured after Backstreet Boys, Jay-R, Will Smith, and Sugarhill Gang (to name a few) all instructed us in the fine art of reckless hand waving, that the phrase was dead. But no. They couldn’t let it rest in peace. Next thing you know, Fall Out Boy will start singing about how they don’t see nuthin wrong with a little bump n grind. That, my friends, will be a grim day indeed.

And that concludes today’s review. I had fun writing about something I don’t like, so you might be seeing these every so often. Who knows. There are some possible changes coming to Motherfish, plus a few things I’m working on currently to spruce things up around here, so stay tuned for lots of nifty things. Oh, and follow me on Twitter. Join me next week for a review that I’ve been waiting to do since I started this blog.

I’m giving you this song as punishment for your sins:

Thanks to youtube user Caladis074 for posting this, because I really didn't care enough to upload it myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Motherfish #14- Once, Twice, Thrice a Lady

Album of the Week

Today’s review is up late because contrary to popular belief; I do have a level of responsibility as a student. Work got a little out of hand this last week, but don’t worry! You still get a great review today. Plus more. Science is a big part of my life. I’m very interested in quantum physics and current theories on the subject. I don’t understand most of the math, but that’s ok, it’s the concepts that I enjoy reading about anyway. Regardless, I like to try and keep updated on a lot of current research and science related news stories (read that as “I’m a huge geek with no life and no girlfriend”). Something that’s caught my eye is a proposed theory on a new model for the universe. It’s a donut. What? Ok, well this idea isn’t necessarily new, the article I read was from March 11, 2003. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting. The idea of a finite universe drastically alters the most widespread theory on the creation of the universe, the Big Bang Theory. The BBT is modeled after a spherical, ever expanding infinite space, whereas the evidence supporting the donut model suggests much more of a definite shape. The idea is that if you actually keep heading in a straight line, you’ll end up back where you started, and when we look out into space, we’re seeing what basically amounts to being surrounded by mirrors. What’s most exciting about this, to me at least, is that it lends some credence to String Theory; so far the best candidate science has for a unifying theory of everything. Way to go, Science! Keep making that juice! On to the music:

Yellow & Elephant by Eye Alaska

What we are looking at here today is a band where every member has a giant set of balls. Eye Alaska’s got a unique sound that simultaneously offers throwbacks to 70’s lovemaking jams and modern post-rock. Is that even possible? Obviously if I wrote it than it is. I never lie. Eye Alaska has a little celebrity power working for them, Chase Kensrue is on guitar, piano, and throws down some vocals. Kensrue… That name… Thrice? Yes, Chase is the younger brother of Thrice front man Dustin Kensrue. Don’t expect any of big bro’s throaty vocals or chugging drop B guitars. EA’s sound is much smoother, with all of the tracks featuring airy synths and often some strings or some horns. They create the perfect environment for lead vocalist Brandon Wronski’s almost theatrical tenor voice. The man can sing, that’s fer sure. The album is pretty piano heavy and because of the nature of the instruments used, many of which were electronic, it required a lot of post-production. A lot of people are adverse to what’s often called the ‘over-produced’ sound. You know, the kind of band that you KNOW sounded like garbage when they were recording because you’ve seen them live and they honestly sounded like a trash compactor full of bones made out of a combination of raw macaroni and screaming children. Or, something. Anyway, in the studio they slap some violins and random choirs in the background and BOOM BUST insta-success. That never works, but a lot of studios like to think it does apparently. Anway, Eye Alaska doesn’t sound like that at all, but if you have a propensity to shy away from highly digital music, then EA may not be for you.

Eye Alaska is currently in the studio recording the first full length, so what I’m working with right now is a five song EP chock full of glory. I really love EP’s because I love to be teased. It’s that feeling you get when you’re super hungry and you order Chinese food and while you wait you eat that tiny bit of chicken and broccoli in your fridge. You just want more, and you know it’s on its way. EA takes this to heart and serves up an EP full of songs which really get me excited to hear the band’s full length when it finally hits shelves sometime this year. I mean, the flipside is I could be setting myself up for another traumatic heartbreak when the album is released and it doesn’t meet the ridiculous expectations I blindly set way too high because I’m delusional and live in a fantasy world where every album I buy is exponentially better than the last. Wouldn’t that be great? No, because then I’d be wasting my time here. And your time. Sorry, I got distracted. If you haven’t figured it out, I believe Eye Alaska is headed in good direction with the words “POTENTIALLY AWESOME BAND” made of red balloons and boldly displayed above their tour bus. Even though there is that possibility of failure, I look at Yellow & Elephant as what EP’s should be, an introduction to the band. There isn’t too much variety on the album stylistically; pretty much the only thing they change between songs is the tempo. But Eye Alaska brings a unique style to the table so it doesn’t sound worn out or tired. You don’t mind that the songs are similar because they don’t really sound like anything else out there.

So that concludes today’s late post. The whole sciency thing at the beginning may or may not happen more often. Since I’ve only been posting here for a few months, I’m still playing around with a lot of different elements of the site. Some things turn out great, like the inclusion of the youtube song samples. Others, like me including something interesting about science I read as opposed to a random story at the beginning, may ultimately be the end of me. Who knows.

Speaking of youtube:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Motherfish #13- Blast from the Past

Album of the Week

As far as movies go, I like a wide variety. I like something smart and thought provoking, I like something witty and clever, but every time somebody says “poop” I’ll laugh. Stupid humor is, I think, vastly underrated in the film world. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s looked down upon, snubbed as if some lesser achievement. Too often do I end up discussing movies with an elitist, who loves his foreign and indie art house films. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but you need to be able to take your head out of your ass, otherwise all you’ll be looking at is the same shit that keeps getting rammed down your throat. See what I’m getting at? Well, I came across a movie that even I considered to be a complete and total shit show. The movie in question was a 1977 release called The Brain Machine. Do yourself a favor and never see this movie. I was talking to a friend of mine about it, and the subject of bad movies came up. He started talking about the movie Troll 2, which I’m desperate to watch. Anyway, we watched an interview with Michael Stephenson, the star of Troll 2 who said, in a very sincere way, “Everybody felt like ‘hey, we’re making a movie, let’s do the best we can do.’ And we all just failed at it. Miserably.” This statement reminded me of today’s album. NOT because today’s album is bad; rather because today’s album is what I imagine the opposite of that statement would be.

Radiolarian by The Spines

The theme of today’s review is honesty. This album is the result of good, honest musicians making good, honest music. They’re much more than just good musicians, they’re all great in fact. I love when I can sit down with an album and be able to hear the amount of effort that went into recording it. I listening to probably 5 or 6 different albums before each review, and many of them I like, and I actually put a lot of thought into what I’m going to review when. I try and choose something that has substance to it, so I can talk about something besides how good each song is. When you listen to Radiolarian, you can hear the thought behind each track. In regards to the statement regarding Troll 2, I can imagine the members of this band sitting around a table and just saying “hey, we’re in a band, let’s make the best music we can” and they succeeded. The Spines have a catchy pop/rock feel to them that ‘s immediately attention grabbing. The songs just feel good. Mix in some great hooks, vocal harmonies, and what you get is a sound that’s at once both very accessible but layered with quality musicianship. When I finished my first full listen-through of the album (I’m currently almost done with #17) I said to myself ‘somewhere in the great lexicon of the English language there is one word that can accurately capture the feeling of this album’. And yes, I do actually think to myself like a pretentious tool, but I’m an English major so I can’t help it. That’s not the point. The point is that after a while, I gave up trying to find the word because I got distracted by ebay. Ebay is quite possible the coolest thing ever. You can find anything on there. Literally anything. If you need an original EZ Bake Oven in mint condition or an oldschool enema bag or some farming tools from the 1800’s….. Damn, I’m doing it again. Anyway, I never came up with that word. And that’s a good thing. When you first listen to Radiolarian, you might think that you have a good idea of what the album is going to sound like, and you sit there listening, enjoying every minute. But then, out of nowhere, they do something unexpected but strangely suiting. The album as a whole sets a goal: have as much fun with good, solid music as possible. The Spines accomplish this goal with a varied assortment of song styles and musical techniques.

Let’s talk songs. There are some killer tracks on this album to be sure, but I’d like to give honorable mention to my favorites. Usually when I review an album, I go into the review with an idea of what song(s) I’d like to throw the spotlight on, and more recently one of those becomes the sample I’ll post. With Radiolarian, I had a difficult time picking just a few songs to talk about, and what song I wanted to post changed four or five times from starting to write the review until now. I’m going to start with track one, Difference. The first song on an album can serve one of two purposes; either it’s a non-song intro meant to make you curious and draw you in, or it’s a really awesome song that makes you crave the rest of the album. Difference is the latter of the two, and it does so with gusto. The song is a high energy feel-good tune that promises to deliver an album packed with good times. Whenever the first song on an album is particularly good, I always approach with caution, ever afraid that I’m going to be disappoint (if you thought what you just read was a typo, you fail). The Spines set the bar pretty high with Difference, and the quality of the songs remained consistently well made and fun. The track I have for you all is #7, Big Chorus. I really like this song because it does something so few bands today can do, it combines a genuinely well-written song that’s fun to listen to with creatively well layered instrument tracks that let the individual musicians show off their chops. Make no mistake, The Spines have chops. Imagine this: the cheese sandwich. Get the image in your head. Good. The cheese sandwich is a fairly standard item of food with a lot of potential for variation. The Spines are similar. The Spines are the most delicious gourmet $47 cheese sandwich you could imagine; each and every flavor from the bread to the five different cheeses used to the light sprinkling of pepper and thin layer of mayo compliments the others. The Spines play catchy rock with a good mainstream radio sound, but they do it so well you can’t help but enjoy and appreciate the talent here.

A quick closing remark; I have the pleasure of actually being friends with one of the band members, Max the lead guitarist, and the dude is one sick player. After listening to Radiolarian, I laughed to myself when we were sitting around playing System of a Down songs on our guitars nearly eight years ago. Before that summer, I only fooled around with my guitar. After that, I actually started to take it seriously. It’s really awesome to see somebody I’ve known for a while make a name for himself. He definitely found a band of other talented musicians. Make sure you check these guys out and keep your ears open for them, they have a great sound and I anticipate nothing but good things in their future. Thanks again Max. Best of luck to you all.

As promised, Big Chorus!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Motherfish #12- Don't Take a Jet Here, it's not Big Enough

New Music Tuesday

Ok folks there’s a lot to cover before the review today. The first is that apparently I’m an idiot. Today marks the 3 month point since I began this silly venture. And while that in and of itself isn’t anything special, the fact that when I write a review I STILL need to look at my previous posts so I can keep the format fairly consistent kind of makes me question my intelligence. Well, I guess if anything it means I don’t form habits easily. But, however you look at it, I spent the past 12 weeks doing something and I can’t remember how to do it. Moving on. Being right is awesome, isn’t it? When you’re watching a movie, and maybe it’s an old movie or an obscure movie or something like that, and you happen to take note of an extra. Wait, that extra, his face, it’s so familiar. So you tell your buddies and they rewind it and pause so everyone in the room can get a look at his face. You all agree, you know that face. And then suddenly it hits you. It’s mother fucking Gary Busey. That feeling is awesome. It’s better than sex. Any idiot can have sex. It takes a special kind of person to find Gary Busey in a crowd of muddy Englishmen. What does that have to do with today’s review? Let’s find out.

Son by Little Brazil

So I wanted this New Music Tuesday to feature a band not necessarily in the mainstream. In fact, I wanted to showcase somebody who I haven’t even heard of myself until I listened with the intentions of reviewing for all of you fine people. Enter Little Brazil. Little Brazil’s album Son was released March 24th, and I figured let’s give it a shot. So I got it, listened to it, and started the rigorous process by which I formulate my exceptionally astute opinions of the albums I review (basically me, my laptop, and some BBQ Fritos). Now before I get into the meaty meat of the music, I’d like to explain to you why I was talking about that sonofabitch Gary Busey*. While I was listening to LB, I had this nagging feeling deep inside of me. It was the weirdest thing, like a small stick being repeatedly prodded into the back of my skull (those of you with significant others know what I mean). I felt as if I was listening to Cursive, but a little more pop-ish, with a little bit of Rilo Kiley (another band I love) thrown in. And it was bothering me to know end. So, I decided to hop on wikipedia (a great site, but I try and avoid using it for these reviews as much as possible, because if I’m just copying from there, you might as well go there, so I try and just put shit that I know here) and see what I could find out about this band Little Brazil. AS IT TURNS OUT, Landon Hedges, the lead singer/songwriter, is a native of good ole Omaha, Nebraska, and a longtime friend of both Cursive’s Tim Kasher and Bright Eyes’ Connor Oberst. As a matter of fact, Landon spent time in bands with both gentlemen, The Good Life and Desaparecidos, respectively. So that solved mystery #1. As for #2 (hehe, poop), Little Brazil’s latest effort, today’s album Son, was recorded in Omaha’s ARC studios under Mike Mogis, responsible for Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous. Mystery solved. Before moving on, I want to say that these two comparisons I just made and explored and killed myself over are by no means bad things, obviously because Cursive and Rilo Kiley are both bands I like. However, just because Little Brazil has similarities to the sounds of these two bands doesn’t mean you’re getting some sort of shit-clone.

Those of you who are fans of the Omaha scene (Cursive, Bright Eyes, The Good Life, Desaparecidos, Tilly and the Wall, The Faint, and recently Rilo Kiley) will be able to pick up its influence on Little Brazil almost immediately. After all, Landon Hedges has been a fairly major player in the scene for a while, and he carries on his legacy well with Little Brazil, his latest project. It’s a unique sound hard to describe in a way other than a Saddle Creek sound. Son has found a balance between clean, folk-sounding guitar lines and more driving, distorted riffs. It’s basically a concept album, I say basically because the album follows a central story but for some reason I’m not comfortable calling it a full-fledged concept album. The story begins by recounting how a man and his wife met, fell in love, and were married. From there it follows their life through the birth of their children and then a divorce. Hedges learned his songwriting from one of the masters of the craft: Tim Kasher. I’m not discrediting Hedges in any way here, just merely pointing out that he is capable of a songwriting style reminisce of Kasher that not everybody can pull off. The lyrics are equal parts specific to the plot and more generally applicable. What I’m trying to say is that the songs aren’t suffering because he’s trying to force plot into them, the lyrics all fulfill the role of being lyrics first, and the story comes second. Because of that, the push through the plot feels natural rather than uncomfortable. There are a few songs on this album that are really worth noting. The opening track, Brighton Beach, is fucking awesome. It opens with some chords on an organ, then the guitars come in, one clean and the other nice and clangy like either an acoustic or an acoustic simulator, and it builds from there until after the first verse, when we get a nice tempo change. Track 5, Nicholas, is also up there. It shows the amount of pressure the fragile relationship the album is about is exerting on the eponymous son. The song is very well structured, and musically does a fantastic job of reflecting the emotions contained within the young boy. But the song which sold the album for me and has since remained my favorite is track 8, Seperated (I know that’s spelled wrong, but that’s how it is on the album so shut up and keep reading). The song puts a surprisingly upbeat spin on the subject matter; namely, the separation between man and wife, and the hardships the husband must endure. This approach is a surprisingly thoughtful one (for any band), really showing Hedges to posses a high degree of maturity in his songwriting. Damn, the song is so happy I want to get married just so I can divorce the bitch and sing along to this song and really REALLY get into it. Not really. I don’t make enough money to pay child support.

There you have it, Son by Little Brazil. I’m going to go ahead and say I have no experience with the first two releases by LB, but that I have every intention of picking them up ASAP. I’ve listened to The Good Life and Desaparecidos (fuck, I think I spelled that differently each time I mentioned them, damn you Connor Oberst), and both bands are of the high caliber you can expect from the Omaha scene. Just again to note the last song I mentioned, Seperated. I think this song really provides a good insight to what we can expect from Little Brazil’s future. While the whole album is good, it comes off as a little “safe” to quote my friend Bryan. Basically, they know the sound they want, and they’re working within that niche. There’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on your strengths, but I personally, and hopefully a lot of you, my readers, enjoy the challenge of listening to something that shows growth and experimentation. Basically, development is a great thing. Seperated plays around a lot with instrumentation, throwing in piano and a sax, and with warping the sound of the band a little bit; there’s a country-esque sounding clean guitar in the background. If Seperated is the sneak peak that I think it is, then I can definitely get behind Little Brazil in all future endeavors.

Here's the song I was talking about:

*Author's note- I love Gary Busey. He's awesome.