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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Ghosts I – IV (2008)

The sixth NIN studio album is almost entirely instrumental. It's a work that needs abstract analogies to define it. I'm not going to attempt to provide any such thing because they'll likely be different for everyone who hears it. The music is like a soundtrack to whatever fleeting thought your mind conjures when it's given free rein to do so, so as you listen, you'll create the meaning yourself.
It's split into four parts with nine tracks apiece. There's a specific mood to each of the four parts but they're malleable and can be made to fit the listener's own ideals and anxieties. With thirty-six tracks on offer (or thirty-eight if you get the expensive edition and reconstruct the extra two from the multi-track files provided) it's hard to pick just two as examples, but try these on for size:

Songs of Note: 08 Ghosts I; 13 Ghosts II

4 macro lenses out of 5

Friday, December 27, 2013

PALE SKETCHER / Just Won't Sing (2013)

The second E.P. from PS this year is a little strange at first, but if you haven't come to except the unexpected from Justin K. Broadrick by now then you've not been paying attention. It's firmly rooted in an electronic ambient style, but it's not limited to it. The loops are hypnotically buoyant. The bass is immense if your speakers are equipped to deal with it, and strangely isn't at odds with the overall feeling of peace and calm that the synth provides.
Like the previous release, Warm Sunday | Mogadon (2013), it's available as a digital DL only, from the official bandcamp page, where you can also hear all tracks for free before deciding whether or not to pony-up and support the artist.

Songs of Note: Silver Clouds; Air Tight

3 yellow woods out of 5

Thursday, December 26, 2013

ULVER / Messe I.X-VI.X (2013)

The small print under Ulver's name reads: With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra. That's important to note because it was Norway's Tromsø Kulturhus who commissioned it, in cooperation with the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra. It's not just experimental Metal with occasional strings, it's a more organic blend of film-style orchestral work and dark ambient introspection that needs a quiet environment to be fully appreciated. Garm adds vocals to only two of the six tracks, but the others aren't lessened by the absence.

Songs of Note: Glamour box (ostinati); Son of Man

4 dark nights of the soul out of 5

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL / The Murder of Jesus the Jew (2010)

The Meads out-Meaded themselves on TMoJtJ. It’s a concept piece about the resurrected one with an accompanying 6000 word 'codex' written by Metatron explaining what each song is about and its place in the order of things (HERE).
Musically, it's experimental Black Metal that isn't afraid to embrace bat-shit crazy if it's what's needed to get the job done. The scope of what they attempted is immense. If they'd allowed a more commercially acceptable production, the album could've appealed to more people, but that would've compromised the vision.

Songs of Note: Apocalypse of Lazarus; Addicted to God

4 shits on the shoe of Lucifer out of 5

Sunday, December 22, 2013

TAKING BACK SUNDAY / Louder Now (2006)


Look at that shameless promotion for the lead single. Right there on the cover. I’d be upset if it wasn’t one of the best songs they’ve ever done. Once upon a time, Taking Back Sunday banked on the violent intersection of two vocalists. When utilized correctly this emulated the breakneck back and forth of the superego and id, should they have the honor of performing in the Large Hadron Collider. The rest of the time it was simply a cacophonous mess. Here, the scale tips pleasantly in favor of the former.

A chewy balance of caustic and thoughtful emo-rock funneled through the above gimmick is all you will find here. That’s more than enough for me.

Songs of Note: MakeDamnSure; My Blue Heaven

3 Benevolent Animals of Prey out of 5

Thursday, December 19, 2013

BILLIE JOE + NORAH / foreverly [2013]

Most folks wouldn't think the idea of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and jazz-popster Norah Jones would sound good covering harmonizing country rockers The Everly Brothers' 2nd album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, which in turn is already a collection of cover songs.
Yet, 2013's duet album foreverly works in every way you wouldn't think it would seeing as it's ever so faithful to the original record by never steering off into a rough pop-rockiness or Starbuck's friendly soft jazz.  The duo's voices work so very well together as one gives the other edge whereas that other gives the first one a graceful smoothness creating a vocal sound not normally heard from either.
It's not particularly clever, inventive or astonishingly good but simply delightful for a ride down a country road on a rainy day and sometimes that's exactly what one needs.

4 girls named Rose Connelly out of 5

Songs Of Note: Silver Haird Daddy Of MinePut My Little Shoes Away

KATE BUSH / The Whole Story (1986)

All of Kate's original studio albums to date can already be found on Nut Suite. I skipped over The Whole Story because it's a Greatest Hits collection, but there's a reason it deserves inclusion: it has one previously unreleased song and one track from her first album with a new vocal. That's not a lot of new content for your money, but you can pick it up for the price of a pint, so it's easily worth it.

Songs of Note: Experiment IV; Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)

5 meters in the red out of 5

DIAMANDA GALÁS / You Must Be Certain of the Devil (1988)

If you value your hearing, do yourself a favour and don't sit too close to your speakers when the album starts or Galás' version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot may take it from you. It flows sharply into the second track, which begins the transformation into a more traditional album with actual music! She still howls like a banshee when necessary, to get the point across, but its gospel influenced weirdness is more accessible than the two accompanying albums that preceded YMBCotD. Although, she sounds like she’s dying on the closing track, which is somewhat unsettling.

Songs of Note: Double-Barrel Prayer; Let's Not Chat About Despair

4 winged fatalities out of 5

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GODFLESH / Merciless EP (1994)

Three of the four tracks on Merciless are new, and the other is a remix of 'Don't Bring Me Flowers' from Pure (1992). Of the new tracks, two are beefed-up versions of older songs that were never before released, whilst the third (Merciless) was recorded specifically for the E.P. and is without a doubt the highlight.
It fits between Pure and Selfless (1994) and, just like the previous E.P. did, it forms a bridge between two very different sounding albums. It won't win any awards, but it should keep Godflesh super-fans (like me) very happy.

Songs of Note: Merciless; Flowers

3½ Meshes of the Afternoon out of 5

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

VARIOUS ARTISTS / Gyakuten Meets Orchestra (2006)


The Ace Attorney orchestrated album serves as a stellar companion piece to its sister album, Jazz Soul. Replacing the staccato keys and resounding basslines are swelling strings, clashing brass, and even some traditional Japanese instrumentation. Oo-edo Soldier Tonosaman goes from a watered down ghost of itself to its most gloriously fleshed-out, final form. The story at the heart of the Phoenix Arc is conveyed beautifully through justified, yet still somewhat understated pageantry. When the central refrain of the Turnabout Sisters Theme triumphantly emerges from the complexity of Kurain’s Geneology, I’m brought to tears even now.


4½ Resilient Souls out of 5

Monday, December 16, 2013

BJÖRK / Homogenic (1997)

Homogenic is difficult to describe in words. It's composed of many typically opposing elements but somehow manages to exude a lot of warmth; but not in the traditional sense, because it's an often frightening and chaotic fervour. Then, like the seasons, it'll change, becoming chilly and distant. There are parts of it I despise, but I can't deduct points for that because the sheer power of the electronic beats, the soaring intensity of the strings from the Icelandic String Octet, and the unique vocals that drill through your ears are so radically different from anything else I've ever heard that I'm in awe of the end result.

Songs of Note: Jóga; Bachelorette

4 states of emergency out of 5

Sunday, December 15, 2013

JESU / Silver E.P. (2006)

With each subsequent Jesu release the sound changes but stays the same. If that makes any kind of rational sense to you, then you're probably already a fan of the project and know exactly what I mean. If so, then you'll be right at home with the Silver E.P. For everyone else, it's as good a place to start as any.
There's synth; real and programmed drums; a distorted bass that buzzes like some kind of blunt, vibrating knife edge; and subtle vocal treatments that elevate everything to cloud level. So do yourself a favour: hit the play button, turn the volume up, sit back and be submerged in Broadrick's radiant candour.

Songs of Note: Silver; Star

4 kinds of gold out of 5

S.J. TUCKER / Witchy Ways: An October Mix-tape (2013)

Just in time for Xmas, it's an October Mix-tape. It was actually released in time for Hallowe'en, but I'm slow like that. Oh, well. It's a collection of songs from Miss Tucker's back catalogue (and two new songs) chosen by the artist herself. She has a beautiful and strong voice, able to channel the oral tradition of storytelling into complementary music that ranges from whimsical to enchanting.
Witchy Ways celebrates the Wiccian/Pagan side of Samhain, not the commercial and church-friendly version that's used to 'educate' the kids.

Songs of Note: Kashkash; Firebird's Child

4 hymns in the glade out of 5

Friday, December 13, 2013

METAMORPHOSIS JAZZ BAND / Gyakuten Meets Jazz Soul (2007)


Character themes and trial suites (mostly) from the Phoenix Arc of the Ace Attorney series are given the swinging nightclub treatment on this release. Nothing here becomes too languid or self-indulgent save the Steel Samurai theme which is slowed and stretched to the point of unrecognizability. Tigre and Godot’s, however, already existed well into the genre’s wheelhouse and excel for it. Unlike with The Futurist, I have very specific emotional connections to each piece and the majority of the album moves with a purpose.


4 Face Wreckin' Express Trains out of 5

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

COUNTING CROWS / Recovering the Satellites (1996)


While trying to find his way home, Adam serendipitously veers inside a seedy back-alley bar where Dan Vickrey is shredding his wicked little heart out. The Duritz is entranced and invites him to score his increasingly complex laments, forever more. Voice and abused steel caterwaul in imperfect harmony, completely unafraid to tread into the night August hesitated so quaintly at the edges of. Is it possible to be this forceful and almost mean at times and yet ready to fall into shambles, all simultaneously?

Yes.

This is gloriously rough around the center and takes a measure of patience few probably have. Don’t even begin to think this is anything like A Long December would indicate out of context.


5 Beautifully Ragged Pairs of Coke-Can Wings out of 5

Sunday, December 8, 2013

ALICE COOPER / Alice Does Alice (2010)

Like it says on the cover, the guy with the girl's name re-recorded five classic songs for this pointless effort (School's Out, I'm Eighteen, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Welcome To My Nightmare, Elected). They don't have the same vibrancy as the originals, but other than that there's nothing wrong with any of them. The songs are timeless and the production is top-notch. I do wonder why he did it, though. It's not like he needs the money. It was a download-only release, so I can’t even trade the damn thing in. Just for that, I'm not even going to rate it. Alice won't give a shit but it'll make me feel better. I'm not averse to small, asinine victories.

Songs of Note: The originals of them all.

_______ out of 5

KILLING JOKE / Laugh? I Nearly Bought One! (1992)

A compilation of Killing Joke songs that I hesitate to call a 'Best of…' because it really isn't; if you want that, then simply go pick up the first two albums. Laugh? is more like a retrospective of their first ten years as a band, cataloguing the ups and downs in quality. It does, however, include a few rarities that I'll mention simply because they never appeared on any of the studio albums. The first is the title track from their début single, Turn to Red, which is pretty damn good - I'll link it below. The second is an alternate mix of Wintergardens from Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (1986) that wasn't on that abomination of an album.

Songs of Note: Turn to Red; Requiem

3½ curtains drawn out of 5

BLUT AUS NORD / 777 – Cosmosophy (2012)

The final part of the 777 trilogy is a heavily layered work that gives us the last 5 tracks in Blut's 18 track opus. It opens unassumingly, before kicking away the safety net with black metal coldness wedded to an industrial riff structure. The aggression is fluid; it ebbs and flows in a natural way, right to the very end. But like I said at the beginning, it's multi-layered, so when you take the time to explore what lies beneath the surface, you'll find both complementary and conflicting emotional states just waiting to grab hold of your consciousness.

Songs of Note: Epitome XIV; Epitome XVIII

4 seasons out of 5

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SUB HUM ANS / The Day the Country Died (1983)

British anarcho-punk that isn't as musically harsh as the cover suggests. The slight softening of the sound didn't result in a softening of the lyrical content; it's as critical of the political landscape and apathy of the masses as you'd hope for. It's also less limited in scope than some of the other acts around at the time.
It's hailed as a classic by many. I don't think it quite hits that mark, but I won't deny it deserves to be remembered and revisited. If nothing else, the band put Wiltshire on the map for a very different reason than it usually gets mentioned.

Songs of Note: Dying World; No

3½ cups of Orwellian tea out of 5

Friday, December 6, 2013

BOWLING FOR SOUP / The Great Burrito Extortion Case (2006)


The balance struck here between BFS’s full-body-in-cheek ditties and heart-string plucking musings is, as Jaret would say, exceedingly rad. It hangs together pleasantly--if not exquisitely--by not overstaying its welcome or feeling fleeting because of an overabundance of silliness for its own sake. If you're new to this party, you're in luck. The songs of note include a perfectly encapsulated version of their manifesto and an example of how they can take you by surprise through simplicity.

Crank this shit up and drive.

Songs of Note: I'm GayWhy Don't I Miss You?

3 Coming Out Anthems out of 5

Thursday, December 5, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Fixed (1992)

I've used Fixed to clear a room. I'm not kidding. I also love it, so will be as biased as I can while reviewing it. It contains tracks from the Broken E.P. (1992) remixed by such luminaries as Coil, Butch Vig, and J. G. Thirlwell; all of whom do their best to hide something interesting inside something chaotic.
The first half is recognisable as music, but the latter half goes off the rails and offers up some harsh fragments (and Bob Flanagan having his bits tortured) that require repeated exposure to find any kind of rhythm in.
Far from being a misnomer, Fixed puts right the feelings that inspired Broken because it's born from the freedom to do what the artist wants.

Songs of Note: Gave Up; Wish

4 smashed pieces out of 5

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BEYOND DAWN / Revelry (1998)

After Norwegian Black Metal hit a creative brick wall, the avant-garde movement sprang up; Revelry was part of that. A lot of it actually sounds like Black Metal slowed down, mapped to a Swans template. Vocalist (and guitarist) Espen Ingierd even sounds like Michael Gira. If I was to describe it in one sentence, I'd call it 52 minutes of sleazy lounge music for the depressed metal fan.
It's a difficult album to engage with because it's so glum, but it reveals more introspective, experimental layers as you give it more and more of your attention. The only downside with that approach is that you risk becoming a depressed metal fan and may never look at a trombone the same ever again.

Songs of Note: Love's (Only) True Defender; Three Steps for the Chameleon

3 sad dogs out of 5

Monday, December 2, 2013

NINE DAYS / The Madding Crowd (2000)


If you've only heard Absolutely (Story of A Girl) you will have a decent idea of how half of this album sounds. There is a second singer-songwriter present, however, who brings a healthy dose of tranquil introspection to the table. He also provides a touch of measured venom, and, unfortunately, an exercise in art-school pretentiousness. Thankfully, that is really the only true misstep of which to speak. These boys have a decent amount more going on beneath the surface of their shiny pop-rock lake than most of their deceased one-hit-wonder brethren and I have to believe that’s the reason they've long survived in the absence of public acclaim.

Songs of Note: If I Am; Bitter

4 Cursing Girls (Sold Separately) out of 5

JARBOE | TELECOGNAC ‎/ Over (2000)

Telecognac (Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller) took a single Jarboe track and made a lazy release from it. It's classed as an album, but has just three tracks totalling 35 mins. They chopped most of Jarboe's vocals into small, unintelligible chunks and then dropped them into a toolbox of experimental awkwardness that relies heavily on juxtaposition and percussion to fill out the running time.
It only gels into something engaging about fifty percent of the time. The other fifty percent is mostly cold, listless and irritating.

Songs of Note: Over 1; Over 2

2 gold idols out of 5

Sunday, December 1, 2013

ALICE COOPER / DaDa (1983)

Alice's 15th album is… well… it just is. It's ignored by most fans and by Cooper himself, who created it during another alcohol daze. But it's not a total washout; its merits lie in the fact that it's more interesting than it is exciting. The lame synth and computer experimentation are the biggest problem, but the occasional flashes of a lucid Alice raise a few songs high above the blandness.
Former Lee Warmer is a classic Alice ballad, eerie, volatile and beautiful. Scarlet and Sheba has the beginnings of the sound that he'd adopt for his sober comeback album a few years later. New arrangements on the remainder could give them the kind of heartbeat they deserve, but that isn't likely to happen.

Songs of Note: DaDa; Former Lee Warmer

1½ twisted keys out of 5

KATATONIA / Last Fair Day Gone Night (2013)

If you've been neglecting your turntable lately (shame on you), then you'll need to blow the dust off it if you want to hear the Last Fair Day live album, because it's available on triple heavyweight 180gm vinyl only. But fear not, if you don't even have a turntable, because the Swedes have a habit of re-releasing the same album just a few years after the first release, so I'd bet money that it'll eventually appear on CD, if you prefer your music on shiny discs. It's a decent set recorded at the Koko in London. They deliver the Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001) album in its entirety, and even treat us to a single track from Brave Murder Day (1996), which is something they rarely offer these days.

Songs of Note: Brave; Teargas

3 passing birds out of 5

Edit: It’s on CD sooner than predicted (Sept 2014) as a 4 disc set containing 2 CD = The Music / 2 DVD = Full Gig + Documentary.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Broken (1992)

Broken is an angry, audible 'Fuck You!' to the stifling conventions of the music business. It's the sound of Trent Reznor the commodity hating on the people that want him to make money for them. Ironically, it went on to make a lot of money, but it also saw NIN turn from being Depeche Mode-friendly to kicking it with the Industrial big league. It wasn't just PHM with distortion, it was a whole new NIN sound that, two years later, once the anger had subsided, would further develop into one of the best albums the genre ever produced.

Songs of Note: Wish; Happiness in Slavery

5 devils of truth out of 5

A PALE HORSE NAMED DEATH / Lay My Soul to Waste (2013)

I described APHND's début album as a cross between Alice In Chains and Type O Negative. Their second album continues the same but there's a smattering of Marilyn Manson atop the grungy funeral dirge, which makes me like it less. MM plays bad MM these days, we don’t need any more of that. I know it's lazy of me to rely on cheap comparisons, but they do a perfect job of describing the album.

Songs of Note: In The Sleeping Death; Dead Of Winter

3½ shallow graves out of 5

Thursday, November 28, 2013

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. / The Futurist (2005)


When it comes to RDJ, I’m a poseur at worst and an ultra-specific fan at best. I keep this around because I like the idea of having a Tony Stark album. I find a lot of the lyrics to be needlessly florid and while the jazz-y arrangements and vocals are interesting they don’t speak to me in any significant way. There’s a song or two clearly inspired by his personal tribulations and a very nice chess metaphor, which strangely devolves into a completely out-of-place refrain of Give Peace a Chance. Beyond that, my biggest joy comes from a verse that smacks of Robert having played Silent Hill 2.

If you can appreciate dreamy jazz-pop and want to hear the Downes sing, you could do worse, I guess?

Songs of Note: Your Move; Details

2 Piano-Top Scribbles out of 5

DAVID GILMOUR / Live In Gdańsk [2008]


Widely recognized as one of the final full-length album releases featuring Pink Floyd members together (David Gilmour and keyboardsist Richard Wright), Gilmour's 2008 solo album Live In Gdańsk was recorded in Poland in support of On An Island in 2006 and the end of communist movement.
Supported by the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, Gilmour runs through the entirety of On An Island and a generous handful of Floyd classics, including "Astronomy Domine" (from Piper At The Gates Of Dawn- which curiously he had nothing to do with).  As wonderful as the Floyd songs are to hear again, surprisingly it's the newer solo-Gilmour songs that seem to have the most inspiration, enthusiasm and love tossed into them (and that's loving the fact that "Echoes" from Floyd's 1971 Meddle is played in it's entirey with chilling perfection).

4 great days for freedom out of 5

Songs Of Note:  You're a Floyd fan if you've been following my Floyd posts....they're all good.

LIGHTS / Siberia Acoustic [2013]

Lights seems to genuinely love making music and I respect that, however I can only stand to listen to 2 or 3 songs before her special brand of bubbly electro-pop gets a bit too gooey and squeaky for me.
Naturally I was very intrigued by the idea of her re-recording 2011's Siberia as an all acoustic album, aptly titled Siberia Acoustic.
Completely stripped of her electronic studio trickery, Lights is able to showcase her songwriting versatility and a vulnerability in her voice we've never really heard before.  It's actually quite interesting to hear what used to be sparkly space songs so gracefully morphed into to something somber and chilling yet still speak true to their lyrics .
It's nice that she didn't just merely strip her songs down but found whole new meanings and emotions in them that makes for her strongest record yet.

4 cities for Owls out of 5

Songs Of Note:  ToesHeavy Rope

Monday, November 25, 2013

PANIC! AT THE DISCO / Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die (2013)


Panic at the Disco’s early career was spent as musical doppelgangers whose portrayals varied widely in effectiveness. They were exquisite as b-string Fall Out Boys and aggravatingly inconsistent as faux mop-tops. On their latest album, it feels as if Brendon has spent too much time turning knobs in the studio when he should have had someone twiddling the one in his pants. There are interesting bleeps and bloops throughout, but lyrically he blows his load on the first track only to let the album chug generically along until it wheezes to a particularly disappointing stop.

I realize it isn’t fair to expect them to always be FOB dlc, but this is (mostly) trash, regardless.

Songs of Note: This Is Gospel; Miss Jackson

1 Shout Out to Someone Horribly Missed out of 5

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NEW MODEL ARMY / B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks (1995)

NMA don't skimp when it comes to their B-Sides. They give you real value for money, which is something that a single rarely does. Quite often the tracks from the flip side are as good as the title track they're supposed to be supporting; in some cases they're actually better. B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks collects together eighteen such gems, from 1985 to 1993; the rights to their début are owned by someone else, so there's nothing from it. What that produces is a disc that's as strong and kicks as much ass as any of the 'proper' albums.

Songs of Note: Heroin; Drummy B (Billy McCann Version)

4 ambitious bright eyes out of 5

Friday, November 22, 2013

COUNTING CROWS / August and Everything After (1993)


I’m not sure if I’ve known anyone else to make feeling maudlin sound more beautiful than The Duritz and company. Birthed fully formed, here, they revel in emotional fragility while not being afraid to raise rousing calls for resilience when fleeting courage inevitably strikes. Verily, the most fulfilling interludes involve Adam remembering that we are worth more than the shit we do to one another could ever justify. Still, even the bleakest and most stark lyrical moments are completely buoyed by a glistening safety net of consummate folk-rock musicianship.

Songs of Note: Round Here; A Murder of One

4½ Change Change Changes out of 5

Thursday, November 21, 2013

KILLING JOKE / Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions (1990)

Drummer extraordinaire Martin Atkins (PiL) joined the existing trio of Jaz Coleman, Geordie Walker and Paul Raven for Killing Joke's ninth album, a release that thankfully washed away the awful memory of Outside the Gate (1988). It was a return to the heavier sound, taking a slightly evolved form of the early riffage and putting more emphasis on the industrial side of things, all the while keeping the melodies and madness that underpinned much of that early work.
Taken on its own merits, it's a decent album from the era that'll please fans but will be unlikely to win KJ many new ones. From the other perspective, judged alongside past albums, it'd fit on the Not-Their-Best-but-Not-Their-Worst shelf.

Songs of Note: Money is Not Our GodAge of Greed

3 painful, painful truths out of 5

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ZACK HEMSEY / Ronin [2013]

After steering off into more instrumental compositions on 2011's The Way, composer Zack Hemsey returns to his hip-hop vocal roots on 2013's menacingly pensive Ronin.
In his earlier work, Hemsey seemed to rely far too heavily on "cool" sounds and textures to carry his work but now it seems he's got a handle on mature songwriting and melodies.  The excellent atmospherics are still there only now they seem to serve more of a purpose rather than float around in ear-candy heaven.  Hemsey's vocal delivery might not be as fast-paced or quick-witted as his hip-hop peers but they speak of tales that prove more interesting, reminding me of earlier Tricky or 3D projects.  This is easily his most accomplished work to date.

4 colorful descriptions out of 5

Songs Of Note: Nice To Meet MeFade Away

DAVID GILMOUR / On An Island [2006]

I eagerly bought David Gilmour's third solo album, 2006's On An Island the day it came out.  I gave it 2 spins and it's collected dust on my shelf ever since.
...until now.
Back then, I had the expectations of a moody trip into a gloomy English world filled with haunting imagery and instead I got a relaxed, "happy" sound that felt more at ease with the world.  With a few more years I found this album to not be as bad as I initially thought it was and in fact took comfort in having my ears and brain soothed into a tranquil state while I sat in my chair.  It's not as dramatic or abrasive as Gilmour's earlier works but it still has his signature guitar playing and raspy but smooth vocals.  Gilmour's here to put us to sleep in a good way without trying to make a pompous opinion or taking jabs at ex-band members.  I'll give it more listens in the near future when I'm tired of the rest of the world.

3 Crosby & Nashes out of 5

Songs Of  Note: This HeavenSmile

AUSTRA / Olympia [2013]

A colorful cover featuring frontwoman Katie Stelmanis in bright pink and radiant red hair leads one to believe that goth synth-pop act Austra was trying to break free from their dark & mysterious image.
However their 2013 sophomore album Olympia is just as ethereally esoteric as their first album only now the beats seem to throb a bit more and the compositions shine with confidence..
As chilly and cold as the hypnotizing music is, it's all given an intimate and warm feeling with Stelmanis' soaring, yet vulnerable voice.  As modern as the arrangements are, the production could easily fit into 4AD's heyday with Dead Can Dance and The Cocteau Twins with it's shimmering pulses and blips & beeps.

4 quiet indoor fights out of 5

Songs Of Note:  What We Done; Painful Like

Monday, November 4, 2013

NINE INCH NAILS / Hesitation Marks (2013)

The return of NIN was something that I anticipated greatly, but when it came it came with disappointment. Trent was happily married and rich, so he'd very little to whine about any more. Consequently, lyrically it skims still waters while trying to remain as close to the deeper NIN formula as possible.
The music attempts a similar kind of compromise. Amid the complex layering there's some Pretty Hate Machine, some The Fragile, some With Teeth, and even some of his soundtrack work in the second half. Structurally the album tries hard to make each of those eras into one cohesive whole, but it comes out sounding bland and fatigued. It's telling and slightly ironic that the highlight (Everything) is the one that's the happiest sounding of all.

Songs of Note: Came Back Haunted; Everything

2½ imprinted echoes out of 5

FLEURETY / Last Minute Lies (1999)

A short four track E.P. from the Norwegian weirdsters that offered a taste of what was to come on the following year's full length release, Department of Apocalyptic Affairs. The willingness to experiment with different genres, particularly electronic and jazz, mean there's very little left of the Black Metal sound that they became known for, but the song structures and the confidence to let the instruments tell a story of their own remains. The addition of female vocals and saxophone lend support when needed and don't seem at all out of place.

Songs of Note: Facets; Vortex

5 perverse angles out of 5

NEGURĂ BUNGET / Vîrstele Pamîntului (2010)

Romanian Black Metal with a large dose of ethnic instrumentation woven throughout. I haven't the foggiest idea what they're singing about, but the Eastern European sound gels beautifully with the more extreme guitar work of the BM genre so that neither part holds dominance over the other. It's that balanced relationship between traditional and modern that sets the album apart from the many failed attempts to blend Metal and Folk. Simply put, Vîrstele Pamîntului is a beautifully constructed album that demands repeated listens.

Songs of Note: Pămînt; Umbra

4 misty boughs out of 5

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TIM HECKER / Virgins (2013)

I've had Virgins on repeat for days and each time the experience has been different. The most magical was while lying in bed after a night of no sleep. The sounds of the waking world through the open window seemed to be coming from far enough away that they took on a kind of rhythmic, musical ambience. That reservoir of early morning audio formed a symbiotic relationship with the ebb and flow of the spatial environment created by the album. I'm positive the woodwind and piano were Heckler's but the barking dogs in the distance… real or disc?
Listening during waking hours casts a different kind of spell. Some songs sound taller, more open; some more ambitious; and some make me think it's what being inside a storm cloud formation would sound like. Take from that what you will.

Songs of Note: You need all of it to get the full experience.

5 fugue states out of 5

Monday, October 28, 2013

THE WONDER STUFF / The Eight Legged Groove Machine (1988)

If Eight Legged was the only album that I'd ever heard by The Wonder Stuff, I'd be inclined to dismiss them as a Bubblegum-pop/Rock outfit with one or two great songs and some interesting lyrical content elsewhere, and then likely never have bothered with them again. But, luckily, I heard Eight Legged after having heard its follow-up, Hup (1989), or I might never have experienced the joys of Hup.
If you want to hear the band at their best, it might be a good idea to go via the same route as I did. I've known a few indie-kids with floppy hair that really liked this album but… well… they were indie-kids with floppy hair. 'Nuff said.

Songs of Note: Rue the Day; Some Sad Someone

1½ merry-go rounds out of 5

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AMERICAN IDIOT ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST / American Idiot (2010)


If this show had simply gone for Brave Series-level Symmetrical Docking when combining Idiot and Breakdown it would have only been the sum of its parts. Instead, they went for full-on Great Go-Buster levels of integration: they incorporated verses of other songs, combined songs outright, included b-sides and their contribution to Rock Against Bush, and added an entirely new song to the mix. On top of that, the new, fresh voices, including those of several women, serve to completely reinvigorate these songs. I love the boys and Idiot is on the very short list of contenders for my favorite album but even still this breathes an entirely new life into this era of their career and is completely indispensable.

Songs of Note: Letterbomb; Too Much Too Soon

5 Favorite Sons and Daughters out of 5

Nutted by Neg (who never lacks a better word)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS / Southern Accents (1985)

I don't expect I'll ever meet anyone who claims it's Petty's best work, but I don't think it deserves to be overlooked as much as it is. It used the traditional Petty / Heartbreakers sound as a base and added some experimentalism to it. It's not in your face, and it doesn't change the band's sound too much, but it's there and it speaks for itself. There are strings, a horn section, keyboards and even some sitar.
It's not an album that will grab you by the lapels on first listen, so give it some time before you decide if you like it or hate it. Expect some filler but nothing that offends the ears with blandness.

Songs of Note: Don't Come Around Here No More; Southern Accents

3½ rebellious dogs out of 5

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

KATE BUSH / 50 Words for Snow (2011)

It took me a couple of years of on-and-off listening and a life-changing event to fully appreciate parts of Aerial (2005), so maybe 50 Words for Snow will be the same. Kate's voice is still bewitching, and I love that each song is a little story connected thematically to all the other stories, and I love the eerie sadness dancing between the complex silences, but like the snowflake of the opening track, when I try to grasp onto it, it melts away. Perhaps I'm not yet ready to accept the depth of relaxed maturity that's on offer herein. Maybe someday it'll click with me. I hope so, because I get the feeling it has a lot to offer the correct mindset.

Songs of Note: SnowflakeAmong Angels

3 wet sheets out of 5

Sunday, October 13, 2013

PALE SKETCHER / Warm Sunday | Mogadon (2013)

Pale Sketcher will be a name that sounds familiar to fans of Jesu, because Justin K Broadrick released a Jesu album named Pale Sketches (2007). This is him again, in another of his many guises, but it's lighter in tone than most of his other works. It has things in common with Jesu material but is stripped-back and deconstructed, replacing guitar with dreamlike quality synth. Broadrick is prolific with his music but he never puts out crap, so you can buy with confidence. It's a Name Your Price at Bandcamp. Go HERE.

Songs of Note: Warm Sunday; Mogadon

3½ non-interference projects out of 5

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DAVE PORTER / Breaking Bad: Score Album - Vol. 2 [2013]

Breaking Bad fans were lucky enough to get one album of score cues from Dave Porter so it's nothing short of a miracle to find there's a 2nd volume of his anxiety inducing haunted soundscapes released in 2013 to coincide with the last season.
While the first volume focused mostly on the first four seasons, this second album is almost exclusively dedicated to the increasingly darker and almost too intense final 16 episodes.  It's quite apparent Porter has grown as an artist over the past 6 years, as has he become quite comfortable with noises and textures that evoke feelings of paranoia and dread, much like earlier Trent Reznor works.
This album deserves a listen in the dark with a pair of good headphones to really get the heart racing and skipping beats for mind-twisting pleasure.

4 train jobs out of 5

Songs Of Note: Gas Can Rage; We're A Family

DAVID GILMOUR / About Face [1984]

Shortly after Pink Floyd bassist/songwriter Roger Waters called it quits, guitarist David Gilmour went ahead with his second solo album, 1984's About Face.
Without having to soar as large as Floyd, Gilmour was given the chance to write for himself and focus on his pop-writing sensibilities a bit more.  It's unfortunate he felt he had to write big for Floyd later on because this album is some of the most honest and emotionally intimate writing he's done up to this very day.  Sure some of it outdates itself but it remains a fairly solid, friendly sounding record that will please fans who wanted to forget Floyd's later years.  Sure there's a few clunkers tossed in the middle but I think it's something one would come to expect from Gilmour as a musician.

3½ requiems for The Walrus out of 5

Songs Of Note: MurderNear The End

DAVID LYNCH / The Big Dream [2013]

On David Lynch's second solo album, 2013's The Big Dream, he goes a lot more bluesier than his previous solo effort, 2011's Crazy Clown Time but it's still obviously run through a Lynchian filter of reverb and drowsy swagger.  
It's very apparent Lynch feels more confident with his musical abilities this time around and doesn't hide it behind the stark weirdness of his first album.  He might be using fairly generic chord progressions but it's made interesting by splashes of sonic textures and a dreamy twang that screams of crackling neon lights outside a sleepy gas station found on the Lost Highway on a warm summer's night.

3 icky foreign beers out of 5

Songs Of Note: Cold Wind Blowin'Are You Sure