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IF YOU SHOW ME YOUR ALBUM OF THE YEAR I WILL LISTEN TO IT


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Social plans fell through so I got through another album. I don't know how interesting the writing will be since my notes kind of harp on the same point over and over, but they can't all be winners. At least I won't have to use the emoticon. Anyways, here's the new list.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
3. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

btw feel free to let me know if anyone is actually appreciating this because I don't have like any read on that

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Aww, thanks y'all!

Anyways, I don’t know Valerie June at all, and was thrilled to discover there would be at least one non-white guy artist in this whole process. The wikipedia description leaves something to be desired- it’s basically like “she plays all the guitar genres plus churchy things.” So I have only like a vague idea of what to expect going in.

 

I love that the record just starts with singing. “Look I don’t have time to fuck around, let’s talk, right now.” Her singing voice kind of reminds me of Erykah Badu from time to time, but her inflection is more along the lines of Bry Webb from Constantines. If you know me, and you know how I feel about Constantines, then you know this means I am very into this. I can deal with slow intros, because that’s like a rollercoaster climb. I make no illusions that this record is going to blow up into some immense rock record, but I figure that’s a nuance about my ballad stance that needs to be explained.

Okay this is more of a straight country kind of twang in the singing voice. I don’t have terribly much to say about the songwriting because it’s pretty rote so far, but I got the sense that was the intention here. The expansion in the sound is a nice touch, where everything opens up as the song progresses getting louder and broader in the case of the keyboard.

This is pretty dang good. The bassist is absolutely into this rhythm and song structure. There’s just a bunch of little tiny flourishes in the playing that say that to me. The keys getting noisier while the guitar just has a constant drifting sound works out really well. This is also still like seriously Constantines-adjacent, and maybe that’s just a weakness in my own nervous system that’s making me enjoy this. Who cares, I enjoy this.

This record sounds really, really great. Everything has room without feeling sectioned off. Whoever produced this must have been like “fuckin yes” the second it was done. The single most subtle use of guitar fuzz I’ve heard in years, enough that it makes me want to experiment with doing something like this, or maybe just learning how to play this.

I kind of don’t want to write “I really enjoy this” over and over because I won’t have new stuff to say every time I say it. This is all just such airtight quality songwriting and production that I’m just like sitting here smiling. Lyrically it’s all super basic, so as to let the listener carry it with them for whatever they need, but not everything has to be a challenge to the power structure to be good music

yeah okay this is what I was talking about with the ballad thing on the steve earle record. This is not the fastest, loudest record on earth, but if you do need to slow it down there’s no reason to thin out your instrumental complexity too. This is clearly a slow dance kind of song but every instrument is an active participant in the soundscape the vocals are trying to sit in.

Astral Plane was the song I was most curious about. Given all the other song titles, it seemed like a departure. I wasn’t sure if this was gonna go psychedelic or new-age, and it kind of ended up being just very slightly more sustain-y. She’s really good at building up momentum and density in a song and releasing it. The craft in that is enviable.

Not the biggest fan of the drum mix here- when you cut the highs on a snare it just makes it sound like a tom with a bunch of little bowls on it- but dang they strung together like 7 songs that sounded just fiendishly perfected, they have room to slip up.

Now that’s an atmosphere change! I’m in this weird place where I don’t think I would listen to this album so much because it doesn’t speak to me or where I am, but it is impossible to deny how well plotted all these songs and recordings are. Songwriting as craftsmanship is a thing I love thinking about but for emotional release I tend to look to different places.

Aw dang, this was a close call. This starts in exactly the way bad ballads start of just Singer And An Instrument Sorta. She’s built this whole record on her ability to build a song up to something bigger than when it starts, though. I think this is still the song I enjoyed least on here, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad song.

This starts in a similar way to the last song but for some reason it’s a lot more clear that this is a prelude than it was on the last song. That seems like a tough trick and I can’t explain the difference. I’m out of ways to say “these lyrics are for someone else but the craftsmanship is elite.”

OH THANK GOD, IT DOESN’T END WITH A BALLAD. IT’S NOT THAT HARD. This song feels a lot more simple than the album before it. It does has that nice feeling of feeling like Closing Credits Music instead of a song that’s relevant to the rest of the record, but I didn’t really feel a narrative thrust through the record other than “love songs” so it totally works.

Overall: it’s good! It’s a record where if someone told me “this is my album of the year” I’d understand it without needing to ask any further. Exceptional craft of a bunch of stories that I cannot relate to. Also, I ended up looking up the credits and the person who produced this record also played on a lot of it- and played bass. So hats off to both Valerie June and that guy for the work they put in here.

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14 hours ago, BL88 said:

Just as an update, this'll resume next monday/tuesday. Very busy all weekend. Thanks for your patience.

Hey, thank YOU for doing this. I've definitely got to look up Valerie June now. And I look forward to getting mercilessly mocked for my choice. ;-)

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I don't know how I figured out a way to be both Opinionated and Liked on here, but shit, I'm not dumb enough to question it. Here's the new list! Write up posted tomorrow.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
3. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
4. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

By the way, if you're reading this and you're not sure if "registration is closed" or whatever, there's no deadline. Go ahead and post stuff!

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I definitely know Converge. In my intolerable teenage years, I listened to a lot of shit because I thought complicated = better. Devin Townsend, Mr. Bungle, Nile, Dillinger Escape Plan, all that shit. I blame it on trying to find an identity. Then I found Constantines, and lots of shit changed. In the middle of all of that though I did find Converge, around whenever You Fail Me came out. I know that because had an embarrassing conversation with a cute Tower Records employee about them because I had confused them with Neurosis. Being a teenager is terrible. I remember liking the last Converge record. Let’s go.

I immediately checked if Ballou did the production of this and was kind of surprised, given how thin the intro sounds. Converge usually has a really full sound, and this time it sounded sort of static-y. I went and checked a youtube copy of the first song and it sounded the same. It’s an alright-enough song that keeps pushing them away from the metalcore stuff and towards bigger venues, which is just a universally good move. I really like the chords during the outro- kind of big and mysterious.

Ahh, now this is some Converge-ass Converge. I’m still kind of put off by how the bass sounds. Usually they don’t have two songs with the barely-growling voice back to back, so it feels like his voice might actually be going now. This is not a bad thing, I tend to think his voice sounds really good in those situations. Unique.

I actually watched my EQ visualizer (shut up I make records and I need to be able to see that stuff while I’m working) to try to see what’s happening with the bass and I think it’s been cut to give the kick drum more priority in the mix. I’m gonna try to ignore this for the rest of the record because, hey, that’s a choice. This is a really straight forward song for Converge, and the third straight non-growl-all-the-time. I wonder why this is sequenced like this?

Ah, that’s why. There’s the metalcore. It does remind me of the time I ran an album club with non-board people and someone suggested an album from horse the band. If you are wondering why I say metalcore with kind of a sneer, I would invite you to go find one of those songs. I don’t really know why but I’m not connecting with this like I’ve connected to other Converge records. I don’t know that it’s a content thing because it’s not all that dissimilar from All We Love We Leave Behind? It just doesn’t feel as urgent as that did. I can’t put my finger on what’s missing. I do know that the opening run on that record felt like a steam engine, but you can’t replicate that so easily so I’m not begrudging that

Ah, ballad time. This is like just barely on the cusp of irritating me- Singer And An Instrument Kinda- but I know that it’s Converge so it’s gonna turn up at the outro. I’m not mentioning the lyrics because it’s rock lyricism, which is to say that it’s not about it being prose as it is about finding the few phrases you can grab hold of. Not everyone’s gonna grab the same ones. I just noticed this thing is 7 minutes and I’m halfway through. Side B looks like it’s all gonna be built to move though. This one sounds a lot better than the rest of the record so far too.

Time for the obligatory “I had to relisten to this one because it sailed by.” My excuse- I was reading the lyrics and just… okay yeah I try to look the other way on hard rock lyricism because it’s mostly bad but it’s bad in a way that’s like horror movies can be bad. It’s couched in a lot of separate tropes and reliant on that prior context. Even then… man. Man. That is a bad hook. I am checking Wikipedia to see if this was a single. It wasn’t? But it totally sounds radio ready. Huh. Well, whatever. I dislike this song very much...

… but I really like that these two tracks blended together, even if the only reason I figured that out was because I noticed a track went by without me writing anything about the other. It’s given the album a feeling of momentum that it’s been lacking up to this point. It also gives a centerpiece for the bass for a little bit, which has felt direly underappreciated on this record so far. I mean, Ballou produced a Young Widows record. A really good Young Widows record! It’s not like he doesn’t know how to do this. SHIT SORRY I PROMISED OOPS

I was SO WORRIED about Trigger when I saw the track list. An old guitar band with a song called “trigger” made me terrified about what they were going to say Millenials killed. Turns out it… kind of acknowledges that there is such a thing! I say kind of because rock lyricism so it’s hard to read it as being strongly on one side or the other, but I didn’t read that from the rest of the song. I know there is an article where he explains what all the songs mean, and I am never going to read that. As for the song, kind of radio-ready Converge still. Also bass heavy! That’s a plus for me, anyways.

This is probably my favorite song on here, but that’s probably because it’s the most like a regular hardcore song and I am kind of a sucker for that this year. Very well built, and the lyrics feel like attacks on a more specific theme than the rest of the record has been.

Same case here with the lyrics, although I didn’t enjoy it as much because I’m not as sympathetic to blastbeats as I am to the hardcore drumbeat. Otherwise, it’s fine

Oh man, are they doing the ballad before the end of the record? I don’t even want to jinx it by thinking that but I can’t help it. I do like the swing of this one more than I did the title track. I just now noticed that there’s some amount of reverb on the bass drNO STOP YOU PROMISED. Uhh, what I meant to say was, this is again proof that instrumental complexity is the difference between a ballad that makes me happy and one that makes me sad. This has that complexity. The outro of this is really strong, even if it broadcasts that it’s not going to end on a resolving chord from a mile away.

Oh god, the slow intro had me so terrified that I was gonna have to bust out Mr. Ending Ballad. Instead it just has the most traditional old metal intro they might have ever done. Looking back, I do appreciate that Converge is taking an approach where they’re lounging in multiple hard rock styles on this album, although I’m not entirely sure I see the purpose of it other than to entertain their fanbase. Not that that’s not a worthy reason, just that it means that I can’t pull anything from it. Ah well- not everything is for me. Also, I have to try really hard to not roll my eyes every time I hear “reptile brain” or anything like that. that’s only me. I’m sure of that.

Overall, it was fine. It didn’t grab me like I know they can, but I’m not the only person listening to their records and I could see how the people who mess with this stuff more often than I do would be really into this. No real complaints.

Other than that one thing.

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I should have posted something, but the thing I wanted to post was a thing explaining that I didn't want to post the list separately from the new review anymore, but that would have been a new separate post about the list without a review, thus completely defeating the point. Here's the new list.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
3. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
4. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
5. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

And now the review! I know of Waxahatchee, but it is for a dumb reason (aside from the influence of the pitchforkiverse). I got way into this first record from a band called Swearin, who was fronted by the sister of the singer of Waxahatchee. That first Swearin record has like one of the best intros ever, and is a lot of good fast pop punk. So when I first heard Waxahatchee, whatever the song was it ended up being like super slow and I wasn't with it because I was expecting something else. I am eager to be proven wrong.

 

Starting loud is a good start, even though I know we're about to loudquietloud this shit. Really good song though. Good simple story, really evocative, and god fuckin' damn can I relate to the one that's told.

There's a real rasp in the singing that feels as worn as the stories would make someone, and I can appreciate that. Envious. My voice is the worst at that- I got like an untrained crooner thing so if I'm not careful I end up sounding like Tennessee Ernie Ford. I do not like Tennessee Ernie Ford. This is nice and seething kind of jam. It feels very promlike.

I am proven wrong! Huzzah! I read once that people respond to being wrong like they're experiencing physical pain. While I have certainly observed that in other people, being wrong is like my favorite shit. It means I'm about to grow and learn something about myself. Something such as: this is pretty good! This is extremely rudimentary alt rock and my personal biases are the thing that blinding me from that being a problem. I have a friend I need to give this record to.

Okay, this not so much. The production makes this feel strange, like the band is a bed and the singer is lying on top of them. While this sounds like a comfy thing to do, it is kind of weird for a song to feel like two separate entities laying in the same place. All the high end has been cut for effect, and to what end doesn't seem particularly clear.

Back to back ballads is asking a lot, especially with the same heavy high cut. I will say this- this band is really good at two part harmony. It's a real task to make that stuff sound good at all, and it's sounded great every time on here.

I'm glad it's speeding back up. It feels a lot more obvious than the other loud songs on here, but it's well constructed, and the chords for the chorus are really nice to listen to. I'm having to talk around this because like who cares about dirty laundry but yeah I really have to give this record to someone.

Okay the rudimentary nature of this is starting to weigh on me a little bit. They do use the change of bass tone to represent something on the songwriting, like it represents "your side" and the rest of the band represents "mine." It's not enough to make me enjoy the song. Ah well!

oh christ more ballads. Even though I relate to the lyrics, I'm not strong enough to feel positive about an album with this many ballads. This is starting to cross back out of "for me" territory.

"Alright, Fine, Shut The Fuck Up," says the album.
"Okay," says I.
Pretty good jam, with an EXCELLENT outro. Perfect songwriting flourish to use a slowing pace and descending key changes to represent the weight of the all the damage of a failed relationship, unfairly distributed onto one party, with every repetition of "it sets you free" growing heavier and more painful. Just great construction.

ENDING BALLAD. :wacko:

I could see this album landing in someone's hands and being the story of their whole year and their shitty relationship and their road to recovery. I am glad they have it. Not liking slow records makes me feel like a fucking idiot some times. This is one of them. Still, it's my list.

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26 minutes ago, Casey said:

Oh boy, if you don't like slow records, mine is going to be a reallyyyyy bad time for you...

Well, on one hand, Valerie June ain't exactly punk rock. So it's not impossible!

On the other hand, I know The War On Drugs has some connection to Kurt Vile, and I think my writing in this thread would give a pretty clear picture on how I feel about Kurt Vile. So, uh, I sort of figured it'd be a Thing.

On the upside, it wont be the worst album I've heard all year! That's pretty securely that Father John Misty record. I listened to that on a dare.

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I mean, I feel bad because I thought Fear Fun was a record with some really promising, really good songs on it. Two records later, he makes a song where he calls gender fluidity a kind of elder abuse. Woke isn't quite right to describe what he's become: the dude is NPR South Park. And then the songs are all boring while he's doing that shit.

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10 hours ago, sevendaughters said:

Father John Misty is my least favourite contemporary musician. I can't think of a single thing to like about him and would hate his music if it were sincere/not-tryhard smartass/"woke" bullshit.

Mark Kozelek is right there.

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10 hours ago, BL88 said:

I mean, I feel bad because I thought Fear Fun was a record with some really promising, really good songs on it. Two records later, he makes a song where he calls gender fluidity a kind of elder abuse. Woke isn't quite right to describe what he's become: the dude is NPR South Park. And then the songs are all boring while he's doing that shit.

Hey, I almost exposed you to P.O.S.'s politics again. Chill Dummy is number two on my list.

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(I wrote everything before I amended the list. Because of that, the list is in the spoiler tags so as not to give anything away)

I think there’s a good chance most people remember the moment that music goes from being a childish thing to being an actually important thing in your life. Like, the first song where you hear it and go “oh shit, this has power.” That’s One Armed Scissor for me. It was like the invention of electricity, but inside my body. I still subconsciously hold my ability to make music against my inability to write a thing like Arcarsenal every time I try to write anything. Or Rascuache. Or Chanbara. Or Catacombs. I could go on. I’ve listened to almost all of Omar Rodriguez’s solo albums. I have pretty strong opinions on the differences in them, and which are the best (Solar Gambling). I even stuck through the most pretentious and annoying of Mars Volta records, because I just liked listening to Omar’s writing that much.

I say all this because the disgust I felt towards the single, “Governed By Contagions,” sent me into full flight response. I tried to pretend they never got back together and they were just this little weird ornament from my preteen days. I resolved to never listen to it, because after all the only band to make an album on the level of their prime after a long layoff was Mission of Burma, and I didn’t have any cursory interest in hearing ATDI try. I resolved to never listen to it, and then I started this thread, and I gave my word to y’all, and I don’t want to go back on my word. I’m scared. Here we go.

Ah, yes, it is exactly the thing I was afraid of. This song is produced like a pop-punk band, muddied and smoothed out. This is a bad omen. Where the bass sounded like chains, it now sounds like a bass guitar again. Where the drums sounded like machinery, they sound like drums. Everything is just so murky, except Cedric’s vocals.

I’ll give credit here: I thought Cedric was not gonna be capable of this anymore, but he’s totally game to blow up his vocal chords. It’s gone from post-hardcore to Jefferson Punkship but that works out alright for where the rest of the sound is. What’s killing me is that it’s still obvious that everyone in here is still a really talented player, but the mix is just not letting them live. I went and looked at it, and the person who did the production produced several Muse records. I sighed upon learning this. It checks out.

They’ve panned the rhythm guitar hard to the right, and like, I knew that didn’t work well on my first record. A professional did this. Christ. The Grateful Dead-ish chorus doesn’t help anything happening on here. Look, I understand that it’s REALLY HARD to be old and vital. This sound isn’t yet at a point where I can look at it the same way I can look at a thing like a Pere Ubu record, which is still The David Thomas Thing.

yes I still don’t like this

This starts alarmingly like an old Thursday song. This is not bad news, since I really liked that first Thursday record. It is still not the thing I’m looking for, but I’m completely capable of enjoying this song. It’s actually pretty good! It’s the first thing that’s sounded like it belongs in the catalog so far. Vaya-esque. Also, you might notice I am not talking about the lyrics. They are lyrics from Cedric Bixler Zavala. There is defintiely a connective tissue to what it’s saying, and if you are willing to invest in connecting it. I have deep doubts I’m going to listen to a record for a second time, so I’m following Thumper’s Rule here.

Two straight! Crap, they might actually still be able to do this. The day I’m writing this was the same weekend that Cedric disclosed that this song is about a deeply horrific situation that’s better discussed in the sexual assault/harassment thread in the Movies & TV section, so I don’t feel right saying anything else about it.

Three straight! I’m pleasantly surprised! The rhythm guitar panning is still killing me, but it’s louder on this one and it feels good where it is. Plus it’s just really solid songwriting. I’ve never gotten the sense from this record that anything here has less than full commitment, even if it ends up being a misstep. It’s fun to hear a band play with that kind of confidence and then actually land on what they’re leaping for. Kind of the thing that keeps me coming back to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion after all this time.

Oh boy that was not a great sounding intro for anything but a Naruto AMV. The song isn’t bad by itself. This is one of the few times that looking up the lyrics on genius has been the right idea, because the name Holtzclaw by itself completely slipped my mind. The song itself is fine, but man the production is really hurting the songs that aren’t Great.

That’s four now, though the streak is over. This is the kind of instrumental distribution that they’ve been best at in the past, where the rhythm section pounds away while the guitars fly around like mirage waves. This is the one time where the harsh panning comes in handy- the lines are autonomous and need that space. The ambient noise thing reminds me that we’re probably due for a ballad. By the way, for an example of “how to do a good rock ballad,” ATDI is fucking exceptionally good at them. See: Rascuache, Invalid Litter Dept, Quarantined (I count it as a ballad even if it gets world crushingly huge, it is definitely a ballad in comparison to the rest of that record).

This is the closest the bass has come to sounding “right,” and it is indeed the ballad I felt coming. It is very good, in the line of the songs I just mentioned in it’s own way. They’re good at slowing down to embellish a story, while still sounding like a band that has five members. The bridge is fantastic and tense. The next song is shorter, but there’s equal chances that this means “crashlanding to the real world” or “a lot of ambient sound effects and science fiction.” Let’s see!

They faked me out! Lovely! This is also a really good song, in the line of the high points of this record. They even use the moments between bridges to interject waves of noise that have been direly missing through most of this record, although there’s plenty of good reasons that it would be if you’re up on band/family history.

Well! That went a lot better than I expected, and I’m so goddamn relieved to feel that way. The low points were exactly as low as I was expecting, but not lower. The high points- which makes up half of the record- are as faithful to their body of work as you could possibly hope for. I was prepared for disaster, I was wrong, and I am now better off for being wrong.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “In*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
4. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
5. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
6. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

Also, on second look the producer may have produced some records by bands that make me feel bad to remember the existence of, but he’s also mixed a lot of really great albums that I am fond of- including almost every Mars Volta studio record- and many that friends of mine are fond of. So I don’t know what the fuck happened here.

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On 11/26/2017 at 4:22 AM, Brian Fowler said:

Hey, I almost exposed you to P.O.S.'s politics again.

*sigh* I guess you're gonna have to expose me, because I want to know now... (take in mind, not a big fan except keeping one of his songs on my hip hop mix CDRs for years -- I've actually never burned an album even. I'm gonna end up telling my buddy who just went and saw him in Cali and probably bum him out completely)

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2 hours ago, Curt McGirt said:

*sigh* I guess you're gonna have to expose me, because I want to know now... (take in mind, not a big fan except keeping one of his songs on my hip hop mix CDRs for years -- I've actually never burned an album even. I'm gonna end up telling my buddy who just went and saw him in Cali and probably bum him out completely)

It's just militant left wing stuff. 

"Open a book discussing Christopher Hitchens or how to make bombs with shit you find in your kitchen"

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8 hours ago, Brian Fowler said:

It's just militant left wing stuff. 

"Open a book discussing Christopher Hitchens or how to make bombs with shit you find in your kitchen"

Considering my buddy is a card-carrying anarchist (as well as a tenured philosophy professor) I'm sure he has no problem with that haha

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10 hours ago, BL88 said:

I think you are maybe misunderstanding where I come down on things when I called FJM "NPR South Park," but also I do not want to get my own topic closed by going into more detail so I'll leave it there.

Unless I'm mistaking, when I got you to listen to his previous album, your response was something about "good production, bullshit politics"

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1 hour ago, Brian Fowler said:

Unless I'm mistaking, when I got you to listen to his previous album, your response was something about "good production, bullshit politics"

I'm gonna PM my response to this because I want to make something clear but I don't want this thread to house the latest episode of "DVDVRMB Can't Talk About Politics," so, in short, That's Not Quite It.

 

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