Nut Suite. Mini reviews of albums old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers [?]. Occasional smugs.

Monday, December 31, 2012

METRIC / Synthetica [2012]

Canadian indie-rockers Metric had an interesting year in 2012, first collaborating with film composer Howard Shore on David Cronenberg's cold psychological drama Cosmopolis and now a literally personal reflective album in Synthetica.
Metric make use of their new wave, haunting synth pop again only now amping it up into loud, flashy songs while still retaining the same sort of emotional catchy sting they've always had.  With Emily Haines' limited vocal range it's somewhat reminiscent of Garbage only not as polished, making for a charming edgy under currant to it.  

4 artificial reflections out of 5

Songs Of Note: Dreams So RealNothing But Time

BRIAN ENO / Lux [2012]

Returning to his ambient roots, Brian Eno gives us 2012's Lux, a piece broken up into 4 parts intended as audio for an art exhibit in Turin, Italy.
Eno's dream-like soundscapes of serenity from space or underwater (can't really tell which) is sprinkled with sparse stray piano notes and chords over gentle drones and twinkles.   It produces images of different shades of light slowly morphing into each other as each texture slowly swells and collides into the next with such ease the average listener might not even notice.  The thing with this type of music, as pleasant as it can be, it offers you the same experience whether you give it your undivided attention or let it play in the background.  In short: it's a either a good yawn or a bad yawn, depending on the listener.

3 illuminous emittances out of 5

Songs Of Note:  Lux 1; you get the idea.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

BLUE SKY BLACK DEATH & NACHO PICASSO / Exalted [2012]

Blue Sky Black Death & Nacho Picasso's 2nd collaboration of 2012, Exalted manages to travel down even darker & seedier passages than the cold-hearted Lord Of The Fly.
Raised by dense, spaced-out atmospheric instrumentals, Nacho Picasso's emotionless smooth, slow deliveries fit like a glove, which is perfect seeing as I don't see him fitting anywhere else.  While Lord Of The Fly focused more on BSBD's moody production, Exalted seems to be tailor made for Picasso to throw his vocals over.  Not to say BSBD's work isn't top-notch, because it is, it just seems more like a collaborative project this time around. 

3 Scooby Snacks out of 5

Songs Of Note: Swap 'Em OutHaile Selassie

HORSEBACK / Half Blood [2012]

With all the bizarre experimental hybrid metal bands, it's easy to see why Horseback would get lost in the mix.  However this band melds psychedelic black metal with folksy Americana Cave/Ellis-esque soundscapes and somehow make it work yet again on their third album, 2012's Half Blood.
This time around, Jenks Miller scales back the metal sound a bit and focus more on the Americana sound a bit more, making it comfortably closer to a post-rock band than whatever most would call this.  Other metal acts, like Neurosis and Earth, tried similar experiments but ended up falling flat on their faces, while Miller and co. excel at it with their surreal violent country metal with seamless perfection.

4 extinct organism trilogies out of 5

Songs Of Note: Mithras; Inheritance (The Changeling)

P!NK / The Truth About Love [2012]

Joining the ranks of Adele, P!nk proves she's not just another '90's pop-tart trying desperately to grasp onto boppy songs about not being taken seriously or being hounded by paparazzi.  
Instead, on her 2012 album The Truth About Love, P!nk belts it out not because she can but because she genuinely feels it, like a younger, silkier Janis Joplin or Shirley Manson with bigger vocal chords.  Juggling back and forth between "go fuck yourself" party songs to cynical ballads with a smirk, P!nk's feisty attitude shines through every song, whether their gold or not.  There's a few silly clunkers scattered throughout the record but for the most part, it's a pretty solid in your face dance pop record with a nice major label edge to it. 

4 empty storybook love stories out of 5

THE MOUNT FUJI DOOMJAZZ CORPORATION / Egor [2012]

Nightmares can be both beautiful and fascinating while remaining true to their terrifying roots. 
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble cinematic side-project The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation set out to prove that on 2012's Egor.
It creaks in and out of coherency and confusing despair like a David Lynch adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel.  Noises sneak in and out of the mix, almost as if you're not sure if you actually heard them or not, while a tense under-currant never lifts leaving the listener uneasy for the full 70 minutes, spread over 4 lengthy tracks.

5 sobbing violins out of 5

Saturday, December 29, 2012

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE / Americana [2012]

After nearly a 9 years hiatus, Neil Young gathers together Crazy Horse for, not 1, but 2 albums for 2012.  The first being Americana, an album of well-known folk songs given back the bite that they used to have before they became elementary school staples.  
Add Old Man Young's fuzzy guitar tones & wobbly Muppet voice to these aged songs in your head and you pretty much know exactly what's on this album, with the exception of two bizarre head-scratchers.  It's sloppily played, not very well thought out, longer takes than they should be and completely pales in comparison to Springsteen's Seeger Sessions album that did the same thing only light years better.  

1 Silhouettes? out of 5

Songs Of Note: ClementineWayfarin' Stranger

FLEURETY / Min Tid Skal Komme (1995)

Avant-gardé Norwegian Black Metal that’s a lot more enchanting than it has any right to be.  It punctuates the typically fast guitars with multi-layered moments of atonal beauty, and lush female vocals.  The drumming keeps the whole crazy ensemble from flying off into the realms of excessive weirdness.
I would cite Min Tid Skal Komme as the best example of creativity given form that the entire sub-genre ever produced.
It was reissued in 2003 with a different cover and extra tracks.  The extra tracks are good but they ruin the symmetry of the original release.

Songs of Note: Fragmenter Av En Fortid; Englers Piler Har Ingen Brodd

5 perfect fragments out of 5

ALICE COOPER / Dragontown (2001)

Alice's 22nd studio album continued the heavier, grungier sound he’d adopted but not to the exclusion of all else; there’s still melody, there's traditional rock and roll and, of course, a ballad thrown into the mix.  Yay!  Thankfully, no matter how much he changes there is always the essence of Alice underneath.
The lyrics from a number of songs suggest that Dragontown is a part of Brutal Planet (2000).  Both albums deal with notions of morality, and reflect Alice's views of what constitutes good and evil.

Songs of Note:  DragontownThe Sentinel

4 dirty tricks out of 5

SORROW / Let There Be Thorns (2001)

Rose McDowall, the Polka Dot Queen of all things Gothic and Neo-Folk, teamed with her husband Robert Lee to make this dreamy mini-album / maxi-single.  Rose sounds like Julee Cruise in mourning,.  It’s Rose… what more do you need to know?  Everything she touches turns to white gold.

Songs of Note: Let There Be Thorns; Despair

4 rivers of light out of 5

GOLDFRAPP / The Singles (2012)

Why am I reviewing a compilation album?  It has 2 new tracks (see Songs of Note) that aren't on any of the previous albums.  Despite the name it's not a complete collection, it’s missing some UK only singles (Human, Twist, Fly Me Away, Caravan Girl, Clowns, Alive) but if you want to introduce a friend to Goldfrapp, this is a perfect album to give them as a sampler.  For existing fans, it’s 90% repeat of stuff we already have.  Bah!

Songs of Note: Melancholy Sky; Yellow Halo

4½ easy money for the old label out of 5

THE LEVELLERS / Levelling The Land (1991)

The 2nd album from the Brighton folksters is the first Levellers album I ever heard, and the reason I'm a fan.  Have you ever watched from afar as a group of poncho-clad anti-establishment types enjoyed a sing-a-long session around a camp-fire on a beach, and wished in your heart that you could pull that British made poker out of your ass, leave your reservations behind and join them?  This is the soundtrack to the release of your shitty inhibitions.

Songs of Note: One Way; The Boatman

4 Crusty fiddlers out of 5

JOY DIVISION / Substance (1988)

Substance is a compilation album but it’s not a lazy Best Of… it’s much more important than that.  It’s a collection of singles, B-sides and sampler tracks, almost all of which don’t feature on either of the band's two studio albums.  It contains some of their most famous tracks, which are arguably the finest they ever recorded.  It’s a perfect representation of 3 years of musical progression, and an essential purchase for fans of Manchester’s finest.
It’s also the perfect starting point for people not familiar with the Joy Division sound.

Songs of Note: Love Will Tear Us Apart; Atmosphere

5 shadows by the side of the road out of 5

ULVER / Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1998)

Themes… presents the entire text of William Blake’s masterpiece set to music.  It took me many listens to fully appreciate what Ulver were attempting to do.  The experimental fusion of avant-garde, metal, industrial, progressive ambience and spoken word mirrors the infusion of conflicting and progressive thinking that Blake offered in his writing.
The album features guest vocal contributions from Ihsahn (Emperor / Peccatum), Samoth (Emperor / Zyklon) and Fenriz (Darkthrone).

Songs of Note: It's a double concept album, 19 tracks.  Too many to choose from.

4 religious ponderings out of 5

MURDER, INC. / Murder, Inc. (1991)

The list of Murder, Inc members reads like a who’s who of industrial music pioneers: Martin Atkins, Geordie Walker, Chris Connelly, Paul Raven, Paul Ferguson, and John Bechdel.  If you know of those people you’ll know it includes two the finest drummers the scene has ever produced.  Martin Atkins and "Big Paul" Ferguson were able to work in tandem beautifully, each able to anticipate and finish the others rolls and fills like a two headed four armed drum beast.
Sadly, the album never reaches the heights you’d expect.  It feels like a lazy Killing Joke album, minus vocalist Jaz Coleman.

Songs of Note: Murder Inc; Red Black

3 empty glasses out of 5

THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH / 0898 Beautiful South (1992)

12 more catchy and intelligent pop songs from a band that don’t care what you think of their approach to song writing.  It’s not the Beautiful South album I would give to a new listener but if you’re already a fan then make sure and pick it up, it rewards your good taste with some solid tracks hiding the usual Heaton bite beneath the sugary surface.

Songs of Note: Old Red Eyes Is Back; 36D

3 things to deal with later out of 5

HOLYHELL / Darkness Visible - The Warning EP (2012)

I got this free with a Manowar album; I’d never have picked it up otherwise.  Not because I dislike Holyhell but because I’d not heard them before and can’t afford to splurge on the unknown.  It’s really quite impressive Power Metal with strong female vocals.  The band is undeniably talented so if PM is the kind of thing that makes sexy time in your ear you’ll maybe like it even more than I did.  The Dio-esque track Haunted lured me back for repeated listens, and the remainder began to grow on me.  I’d consider future purchases.

Songs of Note: Haunted; Lucifer's Warning

3½ freebies are great out of 5

MERCYFUL FATE / Don't Break the Oath (1984)

Don't Break the Oath is Fate doing what they did better than anyone: theatrical metal.  King must have been bursting with creativity in those early years.  If Hank Shermann and Michael Denner were women their menstrual cycles would have been in perfect sync, the two guitarists are so perfectly attuned to each other’s playing style that they never put a foot (or a finger) wrong.  They delivered riffs that would be stolen by almost everyone for the next decade.

Songs of Note: Come to the Sabbath; A Dangerous Meeting

4 in for the kill out of 5

SOUTHERN ISOLATION / Southern Isolation EP (2001)

The one and only release from Southern Isolation is an oft-overlooked gem.  It was a collaborative project formed by Pantera’s Phil Anselmo and his wife Stephanie Weinstein.  The remaining band members were Ross Karpelman, Kevin Bond and Sid Montz.  Together they played sincere acoustically led Southern Rock.
Stephanie is a great vocalist, able to be both fragile and strong when needed.  The pair eventually divorced which put an end to the band.  I really wish there had been more.

Songs of Note: Blue Bird (Make You Shine); I Got Lost in Myself Again

4 unbreakable walls out of 5

ANATHEMA / We're Here Because We're Here (2010)

Seven years. That’s how long it’d been since the previous Anathema album. Expectations were impossibly high, but the guys delivered the impossible. The record soars with a regenerative impetus, delivering harmonies so full of pure emotion, so uplifting in nature that it’s impossible not to be enveloped by them.
Even back when Anathema delivered doom and gloom they didn't write songs, they wrote albums, self-contained expressions of intent reflecting an all-encompassing idea. We're Here Because We're Here is another perfect example of that intent. There are parts of it that bring me to tears, and I welcome them.

Songs of Note: Dreaming Light; Everything

4½ sudden new meanings out of 5

GODFLESH / Cold World EP (1991)

Released the year before the nihilistic magnificence of Pure (1992) emerged, Cold World gave fans an idea of what was to come. It offered a fresh, new melancholic sound that was different than the début album but no less heavy; it felt like an organic progression. The stark emptiness held a beauty that couldn't be obliterated no matter how heavy the bass got. The title track is one of the finest from that era in the band's evolution.

Songs of Note: Cold World; Nihil

5 sterile beliefs out of 5

PRIDE AND GLORY / Pride and Glory (1994)

Before Black Label Society became his home, Zakk Wylde released an often ignored album under the Pride and Glory name.  It’s awesome.  Most of the time it sounds like a chunkier Lynyrd Skynyrd, so if you don’t like Skynyrd stay well away.  I should also point out if you don’t like Skynyrd there’s something wrong with your ears.  Zakk teases the usual amount of widdle genius from his guitar on the heavier tracks, and lets his emotions soar on the softer ones.  It’s those softer tracks that raise it above a simple homage.

Songs of Note: Fadin' Away; The Chosen One

4 horses and trucks out of 5

JOY DIVISION / Closer (1990)

The second and last Joy Division studio album carries on the monumental post-punk sound of their previous one.  It once more invites you into a world of cold beauty laid bare, and doesn't let go until the very end.  The music is a metronome of human emotion, filtered through the minds of four individuals that together achieved what they never could individually.

Songs of Note: Isolation; Twenty Four Hours

5 steps inside out of 5

BAT FOR LASHES / The Haunted Man [2012]

Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes quite literally strips down for her third album, 2012's The Haunted Man.
Instead of getting blissfully lost in dreamy soundscapes, Khan opts for a more sparse sound design that packs an unexpected emotional punch filled with intrigue and a slight sense of creepiness.   Complimented with thoughtfully beautiful lyrics, inventive song structures and soul-baring emotion, The Haunted Man is a  record to be reckoned with that proves Khan isn't just another whacked-out singer/songwriter in silly costumes, like most have perceived her to be.

4 doors where there should be a wall out of 5

Songs Of Note: Horses Of The Sun; Winter Fields

BEAK> / >> [2012]

With his acclaimed hip-hop project Quakers and non-existant Judge Dredd film score project Drokk under his wing from earlier this year, Portishead's Geoff Barrow returns to his other experimental side-project Beak> for 2012's curiously titled >>.
Widely described as Barrow's love letter to Krautrock, the album is a muffled journey in late-nite madness with analog synths, roughly programmed loops and nearly indecipherable lyrics.  It sounds like a audio-nerd's nightmare and it is, which makes all the more haunting, bleak and claustrophobic.  It's a little more defined and smoothed out compared to their first album but it doesn't take away from the hypnotizing creepiness of their already established sound.  

4 nods to Neu! out of 5

Songs Of Note: YattonDeserters

ANGELS & AIRWAVES / Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal EP [2012]

Playing like an afterthought of Angel & Airwaves' LOVE album and feature film, the 2012 EP Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal closes the first chapter of the band's career.
Broken up into 2 discs, the first part (The Score Evolved) is an impressive and fascinating reworking of the unreleased score from the film, arranged to form lengthy wordless songs of visual grandeur and beauty.  While the less impressive second disc (LOVE Re-imagined) is a collection of great to mostly boring remixes of songs from the album.  With the addition of Nine Inch Nails' drummer Ilan Rubin to the mix, AVA's sound has changed quite a bit and makes me curious to see what they come up in their next chapter. 

3 servants to the sky out of 5



Friday, December 28, 2012

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR / 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! [2012]

A decade after their last full-length album, experimental post art-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor return with their suffocating and haunting 4th album, 2012's 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Returning in fine form with all the necessary ingredients to make a wonderful Godspeed album, the act gets as loud as they were on their first album. 'Allelujah!  nods it's head to Ennio Morricone and Middle Eastern music through a sonic wall of distortion, drones and battle drums, as it melds beauty with chaos in the most majestic of spine-chilling style.  
After a decade of silence, Godspeed returns to a musical genre that's nearly buried itself in inane snobbish silliness and shows them all how it's properly done.

5 gamelan ensembles out of 5

Songs Of Note: MladicThe Helicoptors' Sing

BONNIE RAITT / Slipstream [2012]

Country blues singer Bonnie Raitt has been kicking ass in the music world for over 40 years and she's as solid as she ever was on 2012's Slipstream.
Raitt's emotionally strong vocals are sharp, poignant and straight from the gut and complimented with her wicked slide-guitar playing to boot.  Juggling straight-up rockers and down tempo blues, one can't help but hope for some rougher live performances rather than the uber-polished studio takes.  Nevertheless, it's a great album that shows Raitt's still got it after all these years. 

3½ miles closer than a million out of 5

Songs Of Note:  Used To Rule The World; Split Decision

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ROC MARCIANO / Reloaded [2012]

It's not as strong as Marcberg but East Coast rap artist Roc Marciano's 2012 follow-up album Reloaded is pretty damned fine.  
Sprinkled with delicate bass lines, funky guitars, soothing piano playing all layered over a bed of soul that paints pictures of late night clubs and flashy penthouses.  Marciano has a wonderful way with words, sadly the themes and subjects he explores are kind of one-sided and dull.  This throwback to '90's hip-hop is a breath of fresh air in a genre flooded by too many glitzier acts.

3 rainy days for Marvin Gaye out of 5

Saturday, December 22, 2012

GILES COREY / Deconstructionist [2012]

Dan Barrett's self-titled Giles Corey debut album was a soundscape dark folk record that was a difficult, depressing and thoroughly fascinating listen.  2012's digital-only album Deconstructionist is even more of a difficult and fascinating listen that can't really be described as music at all. 
It's an unsettling experiment on the effects of the brain using sounds and subtle rhythm that can only be described as an auditory philosophical experience.  A dark, moody and implicative journey is what Barrett's created and makes it hard to recommend to everybody.  Accompanied by a digital booklet that is essential reading before embarking on the trip allows the listener to make sense of what Barrett set out to do.  

4 tools of the mind out of 5

Songs Of Note: It's meant to be a 90 minute listening experience with no interruptions, so I will respect that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

KE$HA / Warrior [2012]

Autotune obsessed electro-popster Ke$ha's debut Animal was an obnoxious and inane test of one's patience, so her 2nd album, 2012's Warrior is expected to be more of the same.  Not so.
Ke$ha doesn't exactly reinvent her potentially annoying electro-pop squeaky white girl rap sound but more or less builds upon it with a bit more confidence and thought.  This isn't my scene at all but I can't help but notice the care Ke$ha takes in her own songwriting and production.  Unlike other poptarts, Ke$ha doesn't pretend that she doesn't have a taste for trash and looking & acting like a slob.  That makes her music seem much more genuine than the transparent "sophistication" that Britney and Katy seem to like to portray. 

3 stooges out of 5


GRINDERMAN / Grinderman 2 RMX [2012]

The idea of remixing Nick Cave's deceased stoner-rock group Grinderman didn't seem like it would translate very well into dancefloor blips & bleeps.  Fortunately, under Cave's supervision 2012's Grinderman 2 RMX takes a different route and sounds more organic and natural as opposed to your usual run of the mill dance "mixes".  Normally reinterpretations of songs like this usually lose the purpose & soul of the original, however most of the remixers here seem to understand this and take GM's original intentions into heavy consideration.  It won't surpass the genius of the originals, especially with too many recreations of the same song, but GM 2 RMX is an interesting project that nearly works.

3 super hyper retitles out of 5

Songs Of Note: Hyper Worm Tamer [U.N.K.L.E.]Palaces Of Montezuma [Barry Adamson]

PUBLIC ENEMY / Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp [2012]

As soon as Chuck D speaks on Public Enemy's Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp, you're immediately taken back to the golden age of hip-hop music.  
Now 25 years old, Public Enemy remain loyal and relevant to who & what they were since day 1: angry & weird political bastards with a meaningful purpose.
While PE never fully recovered from the loss of Terminator X & The Bomb Squad, they make a pretty damned fine dense sound with Professor Grif & DJ Lord as their back-ups.  Now only if they would work with producer Rick Rubin again.  

3 Motherfuck Elvis & John Wayne's out of 5

DONOTS / Wake The Dogs [2012]

Nearly 20 years into their career, German pop-punkers Donots are just starting to make a scratch on the national music scene with 2012's Wake The Dogs.  
When I say scratch, I mean very minimal, seeing as it seems it's Frank Turner's guest spot on one song that gained the album some worldwide attention.   The record as a whole is more miss than hit.  The few good songs sound like a stripped down mix between The Clash & The Living End, while the horrible songs sound like bland reinterpretations of the already bland A Simple Plan & Mest.  In the end it doesn't leave much to offer as an afterthought or an urge to revisit.

2 der hunds out of 5

Thursday, December 20, 2012

JESSIE WARE / Devotion [2012]

Former SBTRKT back-up vocalist Jessie Ware steps into the spotlight on her 2012 solo debut album, Devotion
Listening to this record makes me wonder what's wrong with the rest of the shitty R&B singers out there that don't know how to do it like Jessie Ware does.  Her mellowed voice & chilled out music is reserved, sophisticated and is never belt out simply because she can.  Take note, Mariah.  Normally, this sort of music really isn't my thing at all but I can't deny the awesomeness of this girl and her album.   A rare gem in a music genre that's littered with so much overly dramatic schmaltz.  

4 Dream Shatterers out of 5  

Songs Of Note: Wildest Moments110%

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

EZRA FURMAN / The Year Of No Returning [2012]

Indie-rocker Ezra Furman steps away from his backing band The Harpoons and flies solo on 2012's The Year Of No Returning.
The good news is it doesn't sound so much like a Violent Femmes clone as The Harpoons did.  The bad news is Furman's solo work lacks the staying power his presence demands.  Right off the bat it starts off like a 5 star winner but almost immediately drops in quality from there and is left to tread water in mediocrity.   With a few better than average songs scattered through out the remainder of the record saves it from a complete loss but leaves much to be desired from such a great frontman.   

2 search engine hearts out of 5

HIGH ON FIRE - De Vermis Mysteriis [2012]

Stoner metalheads High On Fire get back on track on 2012's De Vermis Mysteriis, after the misfire of their previous album 2010's Snakes For The Divine.
Thundering away like nobody's business, HoF prove they've still got it with a bizarre Jesus' twin brother in Quantum Leap like concept told over the thick, sludgy theatrical metal.  Sounding something like Cliff Burton molesting Motorhead in a cage match to the death, as heavy as the album gets it never takes itself too seriously which makes for a great listen.   Things get a little bit repetitive in a few rare scattered spots but all in all, the record holds up pretty strongly and will provide many an urge to humorously thrash around like a feckin' archaic beast.

4 mysteries of the worm out of 5

Songs Of Note: Fertile GreenSpritual Rites

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BEST COAST / The Only Place [2012]

Fuzzy, surf-pop duo Best Coast's 2012 sophomore effort The Only Place is inevitably darker and more mature than their debut but it's still some of the most damn fun this year.  
Channelling old school R.E.M & The Cure, with a dash of country, to complete their indie-surf rock style, Best Coast are joined by Jon Brion at the soundboard to give them a complete concrete sound.  It's pretty simple music & structures and borderline silly lyrics but what Best Coast does is nails it on the head with the simplicity and honesty of their passion. 

4 love letters to home out of 5

Songs Of Note: The Only PlaceBetter Girl

DEATH GRIPS / No Love Deep Web [2012]

Such nice young men these Death Grips boys.
2012 saw the major label release of The Money Store only to see No Love Deep Web released  several months later for free by the band, much to their now-former label's dismay.   
Not even 10 seconds into the album, Death Grips make out to break your brain with unpleasant sounds and aggression, in the form of hip-hop made for some sort of deranged electro-horror dance floor.  It's not as strong or as coherent a  listen as The Money Store but it's just as passionate and riotous as their previous efforts.

3 jiffy markers put to good use out of 5

Songs Of Note: Come Up And Get MeWorld Of Dogs

BLINK 182 / Dogs Eating Dogs EP [2012]

With 2011's Neighborhoods being pop-punkers blink-182's first album after their bittersweet reunion, it felt a bit like dizzily walking on eggshells albeit a warm welcome back.  Now a year later, the Dogs Eating Dogs EP is released independently and sounds like the boys are done testing the waters and comfortable as a creative & collaborative effort once more.  No longer on a major label, the production sounds free, if not a bit off in a few moments, while the songwriting and structures free flowly without the restraint of studio execs seeking a hit single.    If this is any indication of what their next full-length is going to sound like then it's safe to say, these guys still have staying power.

4 crippling fears of heights out of 5

Songs Of Note: Dogs Eating DogsDisaster

Monday, December 17, 2012

SOUNDGARDEN / King Animal [2012]

It wasn't until hitting play on 2012's King Animal, Soundgarden's first album in 16 years, that I realized I actually kind of missed these guys.
In the '90's grunge scene, Nirvana was the edgy pop group, Pearl Jam was the sensitive, experimental ones and Soundgarden beat you over the head with a keg of beer while rocking out to Black Sabbath.   Chris Cornell's howls and guitarist Kim Thayill's guitar work sound as if they slipped right back into the comfort zone of working together.  Till this very day, Soundgarden still maintains the same amount of timeless heaviness and dense & distorted textures that only got better with age.

3½ returns to the haze out of 5

Songs Of Note: Been Away Too LongAttrition

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BEACH HOUSE / Bloom [2012]

Dream-pop duo Beach House's fourth album, 2012's Bloom sounds like they're comfortable and confident with the work they're putting out. It's both beautiful and heartbreaking in a reserved manner, while staying floaty and textured with depth & delicate perfection.  Unfortunately, this time around they seem to have spent too much time on coming up with the perfectly defined sound and not enough time on strengthening the song structures.  Still, in the end it's a wonderful "stop & smell the roses" sort of record that rewards with multiple listens and attention to detail.  

3 momentary blisses out of 5

Songs Of Note: MythWishes

WOVEN HAND / The Laughing Stalk [2012]


After a live album and a "Best Of" album, it seem like Wovenhand were closing a chapter in their life and with the new stylistic direction taken on 2012's The Laughing Stalk it makes it so.  
Dave Edwards takes on a heavier, guitar driven approach with a seemingly more modern rock oriented style but still maintains a bit of the neo-folk sound they did so well in the past.  With a little focus on the Middle Eastern flavors, Wovenhand invites a Native American sound to the mix and gives a whole new way to sound menacing.  The new style doesn't always work but I'm interested to hear what Edwards & co. come up with as they grow more comfortable with this new direction.

3½ ass' jaw bones out of 5

Songs Of Note: Long HornAs Wool


EMILY WELLS / Mama [2012]

Muli-instrumentalist Emily Wells is pretty much the definition of "talented" and she shows it off on 2012's Mama.  A sultry, intimate little meshing of hip-hop and neo-classical music using self-made loops and a vast array of toy instruments.  As clever and talented as she is, Wells could have used her capabilities to create something a little more unique but instead opts for a safe zone somewhere in between Feist and Zooey Deschannel's recipe for "hip" quirky fluff, only a little more bolder and ballsier.  It's easy to see the girl is gifted and has a lot more to offer, so I'll definitely be keeping an ear out for her in the future.

3½ one women orchestras out of 5

KISS THE ANUS OF A BLACK CAT / Weltuntergangsstimmung [2012]

Kiss The Anus Of A Black Cat's 2010 album Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water dugdeep into an organic neo-folk sound, so one would expect Stef Irritant to go even further into that territory.
Not so.  In fact, 2012's Weltuntergangsstimmung sounds like Irritant was aiming for a Sisters Of Mercy & Bahaus post-punk style that surprisingly suits the act quite well.  Scaling back on the guitars, Cat uses dense, dreary synths as the backbone of the compositions.  Irritant's voice fits this sound seamlessly, however he could spend a bit more time incorporating his own songwriting style into the mix rather than rehashing what's already been done by every post-rock group before this. 

3 "Gloom & Doom"'s out of 5

Songs Of Note: Define PShake Off Your Dreams

BLUE SKY BLACK DEATH & NACHO PICASSO / Lord Of The Fly [2012]

Hip-hop production duo Blue Sky Black Death & emcee Nacho Picasso's first of two 2012 collaborations, Lord Of The Fly plays like a cold sci-fi 80's b-movie score.  
Picasso assumes the role of a sleazy, smooth-talking villain with the words slowly crawling off his tongue like a stoned storyteller.  BSBD's music is a distant, serene soundscape that seeps into the imagination with great ease and chilling comfort.  The lyrics as interesting as they might be, get a little silly at times as well but BSBD's production quality never lets up and begs for an instrumental release. 

3½ Ving Rhames soundboards out of 5

Songs Of Note: Rammin'; Naked Lunch

Saturday, December 15, 2012

DIRTY THREE - Toward The Low Sun [2012]

2012 saw the release of Warren Ellis' jazz alt-rock trio, Dirty Three's first album in over 7 years, Towards The Low Sun.  Having not played together for an extended amount of time sort of shows and hurts the experience a bit.  Gone are the amazing bone-chilling build-ups heard in Ocean Songs & Horse Stories and now it seems the group find comfort in noodling around without direction.  The textures are still thick with warmth and off-kilter distortion, like a chamber act itching to rock out something fierce but it never quite happens.  Not to say it's a bad album, in fact it's quite nice as background music.  I'm confident this is just the trio testing the waters again and will be back in full force the next time around.

3 wordless stories out of 5

Songs Of Note: Furnace SkiesThat Was Was

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GARFUNKEL & OATES / Slippery When Moist [2012]

Kate Micucci & Riki Lindhome (aka Garfunkel & Oates) continue their special breed of light, yet hilariously crude, comedic-folk on 2012's Slippery When Moist.  
Unlike their 2nd album, All Over Your Face, this record doesn't really have one standout track but is scattered with laugh out loud moments to keep the funny going.  Admittedly their cutesy sarcasm does get a bit irksome after awhile but their no holds barred biting remarks more than make up for it.  

3 self-parodies out of 5

THE OFFSPRING / Days Go By [2012]

After being together for over 20 years, pop punkers The Offspring spew out 2012's lacklustre Days Go By. It's a nice sounding snoozefest that makes me think the band is only still doing this because they don't know how to do anything else.  It lacks enthusiasm for the greater part of the record and is neither witty, exciting or even remotely inventive.  There's a few sparks of life scattered throughout the album but it's mostly stale and in dire need of a boost.  If The Offspring don't try a little harder next time, they're going to become parodies of themselves and sputter out into nothing.  

1 forced Ramones reference out of 5 

QUAKERS / Quakers [2012]

You're Geoff Barrow and your band, Portishead has a rough time getting off it's ass and making a new album.  So what do you do?  You create some side-projects to pass the time.  One is spiratic trip-hoppers Beak>, another is the Judge Dredd inspired Drokk and the other is 2012's hip-hop group Quakers.
Recruiting an army of well-known acts and lesser known unsigned MySpace artists to lay their voices over Barrows & Co.'s 41 rhythms and backbeats, Quakers is a huge project that could have easily been a complete disaster.  Fortunately that isn't the case here.  Not a moment is wasted and there's no single input phoned in by the contributor.  It's all by artists who are genuinely in love with their craft and are damned good at what they do.  

4 Radioheads out of 5

Songs Of Note: Fitta HappierDark City Lights