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

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