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

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Fair enough, this was already a lot more discussion on a throw away joke than I expected

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Before I start, I want to address my statement on slow records in the Waxahatchee review: it is not that I am incapable of liking slow records. My two clear favorite records of the year (King Krule and Richard Dawson) are not exactly Minutemen Reincarnate. It’s just that when a record is slow, I feel conscious of how much I like faster music and it makes it harder for me to trust how I feel about it because if it was faster I fear I’d probably like it better by default. Now, let’s check the list!

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

As mentioned before, I know The War on Drugs through their Kurt Vile tie up. I also have an Extremely Negative View of Kurt Vile that is best explained by 1) hating almost all his songs (jesus fever is alright) and 2) googling “kurt vile bank of america.” At the same time, they were the darling of The One Music Criticism Website I Ever Seriously Applied To And Got Ghosted By. I just never got around to listening to them. I guess it’s time now.

“Rod Stewart’s Hallucination Of The Olympic Opening Ceremonies” is not exactly the tone I expected from the intro track, but I’m down. It moves at a good clip, and the bridges are drastic enough that it keeps the momentum going through six minutes that you don’t notice the length like you normally would. I have seen the rest of the track lengths, and I am super hopeful that is just a Thing They Are Good At and that this isn’t an aberration. I might put this on my year-end party mix, it’s that good. I have just noticed the length of the rest of the tracks. Oh boy.

This is engineered in a way that feels like a costume. It’s definitely intended to be broad, but there’s some very modern choices in there that stand out- primarily the amount of space that the bass takes up. In a normal rock record, the bass is usually at the outer reaches of the low end, so as to save the bottom of the range for kick drums. Here the bass is probably mic’d twice, one with a focus on giving it a low end and the other with the focus on the usual range, so the bass sounds WAY bigger than the rest of the instrumentation. Also this song is fuckin’ really good and it’s got the same thing where it moves just enough that you don’t notice how long it is.

Wikipedia tells me this is the single, and I believe it. Wikipedia also tells me that this record made it to the top 10 of the billboard album sales chart, and I believe it too. Wikipedia also tells me that they covered Touch Of Grey for a Dead tribute record, and I believe that more. The internet tells me this song is on the FIFA 18 soundtrack. I believe that most. This song sounds like a band that would do all of these things. It is maybe a little too rudimentary for me, but I absolutely see how you use this to sell the first two songs.

Okay ballad time, I’m figuring Mr. 11 Minutes on side C is gonna be a hey jude thing but longer so I’m prepping myself in advance. This… this is the most middle of the road ballad I have heard in the service of this thread yet. It’s not got my usual gripes- instrumental thinness, singer and an instrument kind of, over-reliance on attachment to the singer- but it’s also not interesting to listen to at all. It’s just happening, and it’s not a burden, but only because it’s not anything to me. I bet someone would scream at me for saying that. The guitar solo crashes into the song in a fun way, but then it just sinks into the rest of the song. If the live experience is like 75% as detailed as the studio recording is, they’d be a really great live band. Just a hypothesis- I don’t actually know and feel little temptation to find out. I’m just saying, this works for big rooms.

This intro heard me talking shit on ballads and threatened to be one of those at the start. Is that a fretless bass? I haven’t heard a fretless bass in a long fucking time. Dang. Either that, or that is the most uncanny slide work on a fretted bass I’ve heard. This is song is confusing: it’s like less dense than the last track, but it moves more dramatically so it sticks out more to me. Something to reflect on- maybe there’s a limit on instrumental density in a ballad? Also, I’m not saying a lot about the lyrics because they’re Rock Lyrics so there’s not a lot to hold onto, but as we’ve covered rock lyricism is in service to a lot of different parts of the Grand Rock Equation so I let it go.

That intro is great, and it’s kind of a bummer that that’s not the start of it’s own side because it feels like your needle is getting hijacked by the band. This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say not liking slow things makes me feel dumb some times- this music is tonally the same as the last track, but it’s fukin’ moving, so I’m way more into it. I think this is a Pere Ubu idea, but American rock music should sound like the highway because that one kind of road has shaped so much of how we think about space and time that it’d be foolish to ignore that’s the driving beat in rock. It’s like the inverse of why hip hop sounds best in cars with subwoofers sometimes. This is a good song.

Okay well at least this is going to be faster than Hey Jude. Very happy to be wrong about that. Yep, definitely a fretless bass. It occurs to me that the reason I’ve started doing this is a stress response to the tax bill passing. I am trying to sink into this song to let that let go of me a little bit so I will not write as much about it as seems appropriate. It didn’t work. This is an okay song. It is a little weird that it cuts off so fast, seeing as it’s not the end of the side it’s on. Like you spent this much time, why slam the fade closed? What’s four more seconds on 11 minutes?

I laughed realizing the name of this song is In Chains given where my mental state is right now. Well timed. It’s a good enough song, but this record is running a little long and stuff is sounding a little too similar to me right now. I don’t know what to say about it that’s not equally descriptive of the rest of the record. The harmonica outro is weird as hell because it sounds as treated as every other instrument on the track.

Oh boy ballad #4! I am queuing up a Thee Oh Sees record to play after this. The bassline in the bridge is pretty fun! That’s a thing worth remarking! We are at the part of the record where I thought I would be- unamused by long songs that are long for the sake of traditions and not because the idea is big enough that it needs to be held by this much instrumentation and structure. I remember when Beach House lashed out at people who complained that their records are samey by saying that not every band’s records need to sound different every time out and that sometimes a band can just be one thing and it’s okay. Maybe, but the difference between a good cook and a great cook is their spice rack.

This record started as Rod Stewart’s DMT Olympics and it is finishing as the slowest dance at the planetarium’s laser light show. I wish I could be surprised by the ending ballad but at this point it would be on me for thinking this record was gonna wrap up some other way. Take it away, Mr. Ending Ballad! :wacko:

So it went better than I expected, which is really just fantastic news for me. It’s extremely professionally made, and it starts very strongly, but the album is undone by the fatigue of the long-winded songwriting arriving at the same time as the two longest songs on the record. If the album left out In Chains and Clean Living, I think I would have found it a lot more pleasant in that final stretch.

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Really enjoying Valerie June, Queen of the Mountain, for however long it lasts. Going to listen to a couple of Constantines albums tonight in your honor.

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Let me know how that goes! I'm curious if my mental connection between the two has any substance.

Bonus weekend review!

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “in*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "Dark Matter" by Les Friction
4. “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs
5. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
6. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
7. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
8. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

I have never heard of Les Friction. I don’t know why but my initial thought was that this was going to be borderline show tunes-y? I did my customary google search to see if I was close, and got to the phrase “a singer named Paint” on their wikipedia page before deciding I had seen enough and that I needed to go into this record as blind as possible.

 

Okay so I wasn’t that far off? I kind of lump Disney sounding stuff in with show tunes and this sounds like a very specfic kind of animated musical number. Specifically, Hellfire. Either way, since it’s not attached to a cartoon, it doesn’t have to arrange its accents with a visual et vice versa so it breathes like it’s an actual song. This is the major reason I cannot listen to most movie soundtracks by themselves. The horn/synth arrangement near the end reminds me of Justice in a flattering way. Like the chords in Horsepower from Audio Video Disco, the best Justice record don’t bother trying to convince me otherwise. This is definitely the most theatrical thing that’s come up in this so far and it’s a nice change of pace.

So far this sounds like the prelude to the slow jam on the power metal record you like. This is fine- restraint is a LOT harder than excess. The noise returns after the first verse, and I’m maybe a little concerned about the broadness of this. Like… okay, I am NOT saying this band does this, but it is forcing me to consider a world where bands are forming exclusively to give Anime Music Video people music to make their videos with, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Quasi-related: one time a friend of mine and I tricked someone that made Hamtaro AMVs to use just a really filthy hip hop track to make a video for. They’ve since deleted it. The song was ANTWON’s “3rd World Grrl,” for anyone who’s curious.

I’m enjoying the noise elements of this, the less tonal things that sound like groaning steel. I know that it’s always going to give way to minor key theatrics, but it makes me want to fuck around with my own set of tools and that is a compliment. All of this sounds like it comes with a LOT of posing and looking away perpendicularly from a camera, and then into the camera. It reminds me of one of the weirdest concert experiences I’ve ever had, which I will not go into terrible detail in other than to say that Blind Guardian was involved and I made a bad impression on some people I’m not worried about seeing again. Anyways, if you’re going to be rote, you’ll gain a lot of credit from me for using really non-traditional sound profiles like this is using, where it’s synthesizers that ring like deep brass.

So far every song has started slow and got big. This trick is probably gonna wear out for me long before the record, but it speaks well to the chances of Mr. Ending Ballad’s appearance. Also that the last track is just called Kashmir, so if it ends up just literally being Kashmir that’ll be alright with me. What does a stage show of this look like? Do they even try to do that? I don’t listen to a lot of duets because I don’t deal with theatrical stuff like that and I only make records with myself (phrasing) so it hasn’t come up. I wonder if the art stuff that comes with this record details some larger connecting world to this, like if this is a concept record or something. The fact that it doesn’t return to the other singer makes me think there is. I could write literally thousands of words about one song that uses the structure to delineate narrators and how much I love it. Maybe as a bonus episode of this.

The music video for this probably has really cold lighting. Monochrome icy blues. This is pretty much the first real power ballad on here, where all of the instrumentation just slows down and holds chords as long as it can. It gets full credit though for two things: One, where most ballads want to act this self-important, this track just fucking dives into it in a way that I can respect, even if I don’t like it. It’s going to be itself and my presence near the song is of no importance. Two, the non-tonal soundwave in the outro. I wonder if the banks of demos these people have are just loaded to the brim with battalions of noise violation bait. I would listen to that record. I like sound as much- and sometimes more- than songs.

Yep, okay, we’re here in Singer And An Instrument Kinda, and the duet is not making a difference with how that goes. I was listening to the remaster of the Lift To Experience record today, which has a big long ballad as the second track, and I think there’s an important detail to wrap up in how that works where other ballads don’t- the instrument is not used in a traditional way. Oh I’m out of song to expand on this shoot well okay

We are fast approaching the point where “start slow end big” is going to bottom out for me. I just need one track to start with some enormous sound wave. A lot of this is sliding through my mind because of that. It’s the risk you run when you write with formula, where your record just goes in loops because every time a song releases it starts at the same point on the next song. Oh, uh, I just realized I haven’t spoken about the lyrics, but it’s Extra Rock Lyricism. It’s like about a broad faceless conflict, so at least it is specifically pointed in one emotional sphere instead of a bunch, halfway, without confidence. The outro for this one is good- it burst into the song with a lot of force and I appreciate that.

Ok we are at the precipice of that bottoming out point. This song is holding on to the edge of that by having really interesting chords and taking it’s time with how some of them move into position. Specifically, the first bridge, something in the instrumentation hangs back and joins the new chord late, and it works but it feels very fresh on a record that’s so far been structurally similar. The chorale at the end eliminates all doubt- this is a resume for an animated movie soundtrack.

Okay it’s back to Singer And An Instrument Kinda so I’m gonna get back to what I was talking about with Lift To Experience. The guitar being used there is heavily affected and not played in a traditional Oh it got loud really fast this time shoot okay. This record is paced in a way that is like tiptoeing on a line of the edge of what I can stand, but this song is exactly what I asked for with a song starting with an enormous sound wave. We did like eight straight tracks of “the crescendo exercises was my favorite part of music theory class” and now that it’s switched to a major key and lets go sooner than the other tracks have it feels appreciably different. It’s a change of pace right when the record needed it most. Close call! Good song!

Oh man, a straight modern rock song! This too is a really great change of pace. They just 80s Movie Pilot-ed the fuck out of this record, coming with in a millimeter of crash-landing before revealing it was a stunt all along. Surprise- the people who have spent all their time making records about Big Elaborate Crescendo Music are really good at making pop songs with the soaring chorus structure. This is really really good in the context of this record. I don’t know that if I’d heard it without that context of the record that I’d feel this strongly about it, but it is an excellent reward for making it to the end. Structurally sound songwriting, deployed at exactly the right moment.

Hahaha it’s just actually Kashmir. Awesome. This is the most Credits Music cover of Kashmir ever recorded. I'm not sure I've made this clear but I LOVE that approach to ending a record. Rap records are usually excellent about doing that, where the last track is not exactly the key idea they were working towards but it’s a celebration of the end of the piece (see: “Compton” by Kendrick Lamar). It is a totally serviceable cover of Kashmir, if maybe a little too modern record industry tight to let the weird pulse of the original song beat. Oh well! I’ll still take it!
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So, this is weirdly a really similar record to The War On Drugs. It's a tough call, but I’m going to give this record the edge. A similar number of songs just went right through my head on grounds of being structurally samey but much like wrestling, a hot finish can erase a bad start more easily than the opposite. This finishes great.

also apparently if you like this record you should check out the Lift To Experience record “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads”, I guess. Shout out to throughsilver, wherever they may be now, who put me onto them.

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I don't know if you like hip-hop, but CyHi the Prynce's album No Dope on Sundays is my album of the year.

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5 hours ago, supremebve said:

I don't know if you like hip-hop, but CyHi the Prynce's album No Dope on Sundays is my album of the year.

My first cassette tape ever was Hello Nasty (I played it until the tape wore out RIP) and my own personal top ten for this year has three hip-hop records in it (milo, Tyler, Uzi Vert) so yeah. adding it to the queue!

On that note, here's how I'm gonna rule this: submissions are open all December, but the second it's not 2017 the door's closed.

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Well, my record broke the top 5, so that's something I guess! :P

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@OSJ Hey dude, that record came out in 1972 and this thread has been about new releases. Album of the Year, not Album of All Time. It didn’t get reissued or anything this year as far as I can see, so like, I don’t know what to do. If you have a favorite album of 2017, I’ll do that next to make up for skipping your spot right now, but if not I’mma keep going forwards.

And for anyone who asks- I am 100% not doing “SHOW ME YOUR FAVORITE ALBUM EVER,” because I wouldn’t enjoy someone talking about my favorite record like I’ve been talking about these records. Means too much to me, you know? Plus I figured that’d be a bigger undertaking, and this project has the right level of commitment for me. Also, going back to school next year.

Moving on.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “in*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "Screen Memories" by John Maus
4. "Dark Matter" by Les Friction
5. “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs
6. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
7. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
8. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
9. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly

I am a fan of John Maus, although I think I’m more of a fan of his approach than his music. I’ve watched him speak a lot more than I’ve finished his albums. A lot of this review is going to be an attempt to parse this for people who are unfamiliar and interested, because there’s a LOT going on underneath the surface of John Maus records.

 

So, in short, John Maus is a philosopher who uses music making as a way to explore ideas. While you would think this would lend itself to intensely lyrical songs, it actually goes the opposite way: Maus tends to make his lyrics as direct as possible, and as short as possible. He tries to make each phrase as compact as possible to let it mean as many things as possible. For instance, every lyric in this first song is “I see the combine coming / It’s gonna dust us all to nothing.” He plays with the order of words, but that is every word used in the 3:39 minute intro. It is the extreme, weaponized version of what I’ve been referring to when I say something has Rock Lyrics. Musically, Maus is chasing a very specific set of influences, best summarized by him saying in an interview that he thinks the 90s are a mistake and that we have to stomp it out. It is immense and symphonic and synthetic and reverberating, like a new wave musician crossing into orchestral structuring.  The opening of this record fucking rules, by the way. I don’t know if I made that clear or not.

The thing that the records miss is that his live shows consist of him playing these songs on a sampler and screaming the lyrics at the top of his lungs, because (EXTREME PARAPHRASE INCOMING) people take the appearance of artist and other human beings for granted, and so he makes a point to make sure that above everything else you are sure that he appeared. I bring this up because I am trying to imagine him screaming “TEENAGE WITCH” over and over and it makes me happy. It is a neatly nuanced little pop song, not exactly 4/4 but in a way that’s still danceable.

So, spoilers, I’ve already heard this record once this year. It went in one ear and out the other. Coming back to it now, the bass guitar work on this record is just top notch. To get it to sound that tight is tricky, even though it’s playing against a drum machine and doesn’t have to worry about swing like that. This is the closest John Maus has ever come to having something genuinely funky and for his oeuvre that’s interesting, but I don’t know that it makes it an awesome song. It is like exactly the wrong song to introduce John Maus to people with though, because it is just couched in its one metaphor and would not give people the impression that anything else can be happening with the lyrics.

My first time through this record, this and the next song were my favorite songs. It’s just lush and subtle, a kind of pop songwriting that doesn’t get a lot of play anymore in the Soaring Chorus Era. It just feels good. There’s not a lot else to say about it, but it’s just a nice piece of craft.

The guitar on this song (which might be the first time there’s been guitar on anything Maus) makes this song feel like it belongs on Urgh! A Music War! 2017. I almost got derailed thinking about who else would be on that. It is also the most explicit he’s been about current events in a song in a while. This would be a misleading single, but it’s probably the easiest song to latch onto on this record. I didn’t know that I needed that kind of rock from John Maus.

In a weird way, this too is Youtube MV fodder, like some kind of swirly nightmare Team Jacob recap video soundtrack. It is as broad and vague as I’ve seen him be about anything, although the line “I haven’t decided your move” makes me think I am missing some larger context that this song exists in. As it is, it’s a nice enough sounding song, but it’s not getting caught in my mind.

More utterly excellent bass work on here. In a different interview, Maus described that a music teacher once called him a Musical Thrills Junkie, and you can hear that apprasial in how he approaches chord changes in Edge of Forever. They feel like something rolling down the stairs, abruptly changing over and over, though in a smoother way that that sounds. It’s not done just to do it like a bad prog record, it’s just that even with a lot of songwriting experience it’s not so easy to see where the song is going from moment to moment. That’s neat to me. That’s probably not neat to a lot of people.

My memory told me that the back half is where this record loses me, and that’s seems possible given The People Are Missing. It’s certainly very dense and it moves at a good speed, but nothing is sinking as memorable. The lyrics are deeply obscured under the rest of the instrumentation, which is maybe the point that the words are as tucked away as the conjectural people. I find that “I made the song hard to listen to so I can make a point” is tricky to balance and I don’t think this pulls it off.

This is the other school of John Maus lyricism, where he just says a really obvious thing in ad nauseum to drive it home. In this case, it has a LOT more musical intricacy than it usually does when he pulls this. It’s a lot denser in chord layout and instrumental complexity, if not vocal complexity. This is like a song that the troubled teenager listens to in a movie to make their parents worried about the dark crowd they’ve fallen into. “Becky, what’s this music you’ve been listening to? This man is just saying ‘your pets are gonna die’ over and over! what’s happening in your life!” “YOU JUST DONT UNDERSTAND, MOM.” Stomp stomp stomp stomp slam.

The best guess I have for this song is that it is an inquiry on the absence of god in someone’s life, or everyone’s life depending on your perspective. It’s a serious kind of thing to sing about so the tone gets appropriately somber and the instrumentation makes a lot of room without filling it all. Nicely constructed, not entirely sure I like it. Running theme.

And the theme keeps running. It’s a very solidly constructed song that at it’s best moments sounds like a tribute to the Yamaha sound chip in the Sega Genesis without being craven enough to actually use it or boring enough to make it sound like actual video game music. Although, given the lyrics, it’s possible that’s the intended audience. I bet this is the song that makes most sense live. If the bass drum was kicking in my chest it would be really compelling. It kind of doesn’t on the recording, and that’s been a problem with the drums all album long really. You can tell it’s a kick, but something about it takes that thudding out of it that my subwoofer yearns for. Like it’s been scalloped or something.

This is the song I had to listen to twice, because I got distracted and fell behind completing my thoughts for the last song. This is the most lyrical he’s ever gotten and it feels kind of weird, but in contrast with the rest of the record, it’s a fitting outro. It returns to the apocalyptic anxiety that the record started on, which colors the record as a piece that’s moving through a space. If that was the intention it wasn’t clear until the ending. This is probably the best song on the record, and maybe the best hook that John Maus has ever written outside of Believer. Also, ending on the second biggest jam of the whole album is the Right Way To Go Out.
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This was another tough one to rate, to the point that I had to go back and listen to the At The Drive-In record to make sure I felt the way I did initially, and I do. The two records are similar in specific ways- that their approach to lyricism makes them hard to immediately read (although in very opposite directions)- and they share a tie the strongest endings of any of the records I’ve heard in the course of doing this. They also have a similar number of great tunes to unremarkable ones, and equivalent singles that are really hard to understand why you’d lead with (Touchdown vs. Governed by Contagions).

Ultimately, I give the edge to At The Drive-In. The John Maus record is more consistent, but because ATDI is swinging for the fences, the times they make contact are that much more memorable.

addendum: if you would've told me three months ago that I'd be saying a thing like "the ATDI comeback record is better than the new John Maus record that you've been waiting six years for" i would have ran into the desert and refused to come back out

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good stuff, enjoyed the write-up! wasn't concerned where it landed on the list really. I sort of wrote 'Pets' off at first, it has a nice 80s aerobics VHS quality but the lyrics are kind of like 'yeah I get it John' but on a few more listens the intricacy of all the stuff in the middle brought it home, that marriage of the utterly simple and the complex. idk. he's just my kind of artist and yeah the way he talks about music is incredibly energising, he's not ashamed of influences pre-even temperament or just outright philosophising wildly. strange guy, completely for real. he's got a band now.

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1 hour ago, BL88 said:

@OSJ Hey dude, that record came out in 1972 and this thread has been about new releases. Album of the Year, not Album of All Time. It didn’t get reissued or anything this year as far as I can see, so like, I don’t know what to do. If you have a favorite album of 2017, I’ll do that next to make up for skipping your spot right now, but if not I’mma keep going forwards.

And for anyone who asks- I am 100% not doing “SHOW ME YOUR FAVORITE ALBUM EVER,” because I wouldn’t someone talking about my favorite record like I’ve been talking about these records. Means too much to me, you know? Plus I figured that’d be a bigger undertaking, and this project has the right level of commitment for me. Also, going back to school next year.

No worries, I hadn't finished my morning coffee when I posted and didn't catch the criteria of 2017. My fave of 2017 is probably "Life is Good', so already covered. I don't think that the Lord Sutch album would even be my top pick for 1972, matter pf fact, I'm sure it wouldn't. However, it's that weird sort of thing that everyone should hear once and then speculate on what could have been had Lord Sutch not been totally batshit, fucking insane. I mean he's got Matthew Fisher of Procul Harum playing keys, Noel Reddng from the Jimi Hendrix Experience on bass,  Ritchie Blackmore on lead, and were that not enough, he's got Keith Fucking Moon on drums. How can you possibly not be a success with a line-up like that? Well, I suppose that you could be Screaming Lord David Sutch....

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Man, I have enjoyed a lot of music from 2017 but I haven’t really loved any of it. It’s been a solid B year, imo.

Maybe I should get into hip hop.

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On 11/11/2017 at 10:14 AM, BL88 said:

3: No Guarantees that I'll write a positive thing about it.

so uh, if you were looking to read this thinking it'd be a fun read, you should maybe turn around now? Sorry for getting your hopes up! I love you!

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “in*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "Screen Memories" by John Maus
4. "Dark Matter" by Les Friction
5. “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs
6. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
7. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
8. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
9. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly
10. "Silenciado" by Diagnosis? Bastard!

I do not know who Diagnosis? Bastard! is. I assumed they were a hardcore band before I looked at their bandcamp page. I am very smart, as it turns out. With these last reviews, I’ve tended to type my thoughts on the song during the song. Let’s see how quickly I can make cogent points during hardcore tracks!

 

As time’s gone on, I’ve found myself more on the Minutemen’s side of the argument re: what makes hardcore. It’s the purity of the idea, not the stereotype of the sound. Like, one of my friends called White Suns a hardcore band, and I tend to agree (btw if you go google white suns, TURN YOUR VOLUME DOWN FIRST). So the environmental sound intro had me intrigued, until it became actual hardcore. The breakdown becoming basically a Raspberry Bulbs song made me want to hear them make a record at that pace, because it’s clear early that they’re really capable of doing good melodic work through that little phrase. It got lodged in my head fast.

Oh wow! It sounds like there’s a female vocalist in here! I hope they’re here more! This is a hardcore song, and the thing I said about the slower part betraying melodic competency is true again!

I’m starting to wonder if this record was recommended to me because they thought I didn’t listen to noise. Man, this band could be really excellent songwriters if they’d throw away the vestigial parts of hardcore that they feel like they need. It’s so obvious.

This is exactly what I’m talking about! By not start with the Hardcore Rhythm they let their own ability to string chords together speak for itself and it grows like ten times larger than the other songs have been. It’s cool to just be Poison Idea sometimes y’all!

This record is produced pretty well, by the way. I mean, there’s the usual bass cut that drives me crazy in rock and roll shit. God help the world if a rock band ever figures out how to take advantage of subwoofers while they do the rest of their songs.

Yeah, again, when they let go of the hardcore stuff, they’re a really strong group of rock songwriters. There is a better band here fighting desperately to get out of their own scene.

Maybe I'm just being hard on them for this being the shit they enjoy. I totally accept that’s part of my own character. If I found myself relying on tropes this much I would quit making music. This is entirely my own dysfunction that I am projecting on this band.

However, it’s making this record kind of a bummer to listen to.

Yeah I’ve said all the stuff I can say about this I think! When they’re slow, they’re on the cusp of Pissed Jeans-level melody inside hardcore music.

They just keep ducking back into this shit, though. It’s just confusing. I thought the whole point of doing punk shit was to be an individual, and to be something that can be beyond what’s acceptable in the power structure. Yeah, punk’s dead, but that ain’t no reason to do this like this.

Here’s the traditional “I got caught up in thinking and had to listen again track.” Which is a shame, because this is another one of those slower songs that’s thinking more about chord movement. Like, they use a lot of power chords, but they have the tendency to slip in some weird inversion out of nowhere that is- if it’s not an accident- a betrayal of the sophistication of the writers.

Well, it’s not an ending ballad! I see you, random Interstellar Overdrive reference. Next time, try not to reference classic songs unless you know for sure you just did one.
---
WOOF. Uh, this did not go very well for me. Rote genre study tends to not. It is an idea that exists in a place where people want This Thing, all the time, and not other things, and that line of thinking just makes me nervous. Then again, lots of things make me nervous.

There's moments where they show very real talent for making rock songs, but every time they show it to me they then throw it across the room and start doing This Thing again. Also, while I wasn't moved by Flogging Molly at all, I did Life is Good with songwriting ideas. I am leaving this record feeling frustrated and sad about the world and my perspective on it. With those two things in mind, I have to put it in last place to reflect where I'm at with it.

Either way, I'm glad you like it Curt, and I'm sorry I didn't.

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Hey, no problems. I just like some pretty generic hardcore punk when it's done well, and that one was a whopper to me. I particularly dug the varying vocalists/vocal styles. Upon relistening a couple days ago I don't think it's best record of anything but still solid.

My second choice was Unstoppable Power by Condor so that probably says a lot about both my taste and the state of current music

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Not sure if you're still taking submissions, but I am genuinely curious what people would think of my fave record of 2017. It's named Made Of Breath Only and is by a band from my hometown of Sydney named sleepmakeswaves. 

I saw them open for Devin Townsend earlier this year and this they've been on pretty constant rotation ever since.

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I'm definitely still taking submissions. Submissions close on January 1st. Thanks for contributing, I'll get to that in the coming week.

I think I'm doing a bunch of albums right now as a stress response, but my baseline panic is your readable content!

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “in*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "Screen Memories" by John Maus
4. "No Dope On Sundays" by CyHi The Prynce
5. "Dark Matter" by Les Friction
6. “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs
7. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
8. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
9. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
10. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly
11. "Silenciado" by Diagnosis? Bastard!

I remember having heard CyHi The Prince in two places: on Kanye’s “So Appalled,” and on an XXL cipher on the Fix Up Look Sharp beat that I mostly remember because of Lil B doing a freestyle and just freezing Yelawolf while it was happening. Dude has more than a few features so I’m sure I’ve heard him elsewhere. A google search tells me this is his debut record, and hey, that’s great news. Means I’m gonna get to really know him at the same time as a lot of people, which I find to be CRUCIAL for rap. Sometimes if a rapper blows up I feel like I have to go back to the oldest stuff in their catalog before what’s good about their new work hits me (i.e. Vince Staples). The record credits on wikipedia shows only one producer I know by name (Lex), so I’m gonna learn a lot today either way.

No one loves echo like a rap album’s intro. Thankfully it’s cut short to get to business, which I mentioned in the Valerie June thing is something I love- an artist who can’t wait to get started. The beat is sparse enough that I’m paying more attention to CyHi than the production, which works good for an intro. LOVE his voice, and his flow’s real nice that it coasts over the beat while he’s setting the scene. It’s not until the end that it feels like it’s actually detailing who CyHi is. The actual prelude is in the commandments, while explaining the title of the record. If this is like Modern Crack Commandments: The Record, I’m here for it.

This beat builds fuckin great, with the organ and chorale work under the hook, and the snare they use is fuckin’ filthy sounding. CyHi’s planting seeds of a redemption story, talking about selling drugs with principle. I don’t like the “oo” trick in the first verse, but I’ll let it slide since the second verse is better anyways.  Sure enough, after the (good) beat switch he’s revealing that the attitudes there are his past, and he’s trying to guide everyone off of the depths of what he’s done (which I’m sure is coming). When the beat drops off to put Pusha on a piano ballad, I never knew I needed to hear that but I did. As for the verse, Pusha T is maybe the greatest rapper alive so I just let it wash over me.

Oh man, if we’re gonna spend the flashback parts of the record with boom bap beats and chicago synths, I’m okay with this. This all moves real nicely, and there’s clearly a lot of work in the rhyme schemes, but individual lines aren’t sticking with me that much yet. At the same time, I’m not gonna come down hard on someone doing storytelling when the Billboard Hot 200 looks like it does. The beatbox switch for the outro is really neat. It sets the scene for the personal conversation really nicely.

Alright, switching to singsong stuff while still talking about these topics weirds me out in the context of the record. I don’t have a good enough perspective on this being a different character on the record to make a claim like that, but if that’s the intention that’s brilliant. This is the least Q’s sounded like Q in a while, but maybe that’s just on me listening to Blank Face LP like four times a week last year. That robin call in the second CyHi verse is probably gonna be the wackest shit on this record, but DANG dude. It’s a nice song, it’s just jarring and I’m not sure where it fits in.

I felt real fear when he kept doing the hook melody into the verse, but thankfully he dropped it. This is an unfair thing to say, but 2 Chainz rides on this forst beat a lot easier than CyHi does. The glitch into the beat switch is pulled back and I wish they would’ve been more aggressive with it. This is a beat that CyHi rides a lot easier and it shows. He sounds like he’s on a second wind in the second part of the track, and it’s doing a lot to get the record back on track.

Alright, I didn’t see a reggae styled beat coming. Fair enough. This is my favorite beat on here so far, and he sounds good on it, but there’s still not a lot of lines that are sticking with me like that. Maybe I’m just spoiled, or maybe I’m too far on my experimental kick with hip hop to be in the right place with this. Either way, I appreciate the broad swings in style. The hook is good as hell too.

Okay, used that too soon- the way this beat builds is gorgeous. This is a really nice song until the second verse when it just doubles in size with the best verse CyHi’s put down so far. “I seen some shit Jehovah aint even witness” is a hell of a line, although it’s probably just me that could spend like twenty minutes obsessing on that whole idea. It’s like a perfect little package of the intersections of faith, race, class and power.

Another great beat here. I am a sucker for a slowed down break beat. I hope this momentum keeps up for the rest of the record because this has been a great run of songs right here. Just really solid construction, other than “Might fuck a midget and have twins, I'm tryna have too many kids.” This whole feature is really not doing favors for my funkiller reputation.

I have an admission to make: when I can, I use Genius to follow the lyrics. I’m well aware Genius gets a LOT of shit wrong. At the same time, Genius occasionally has official comments from the artist, and there’s one on this record that confirms that the record shifts from young to old CyHi, and I had the order right- the trap sounding stuff is as a young man. The hook is pretty much the same as THat Part from the Q record, but the song in general is a lot more fun, including the Kanye verse. “All you do is tell stories, you a campfire” is a fuckin’ good line, so that’s two so far. Momentum keeps going.

Following the super ignorant single with a love song is boring but not unusual. It is not an awful song but it sure is letting the steam out of the album after the last four tracks. I get why you’d think you have to do it, but I’m part of the Fun House > Raw Power camp- meaning, I want an album to escalate until it collapses under its own weight in some horrific ending. I know that’s just me, but also this is my review, so I’m mentioning it.

Started bobbing to this beat immediately, so that’s a good sign. I wish more of the record was this noisy, because he flirted with it early and it’s been pretty clean since. The idea of this song is… an idea, certainly. It’s not a song for me (ye olde Pale Yankee Mutt) so I don’t feel right talking about it. I liked the poem at the end a lot.

I like the idea of this beat a lot, coming across like a stake out scene in a cop movie or a morning scene in the city. The storytelling is good enough that it fits in despite the mismatch in tone. When the rest of the beat kicks in it feels nice, especially since the flow wraps around the piano track in an unpredictable way. The beat acts as a decoder ring, like “oh of course this was the backbeat of everything happening before.” And again, the poem at the end sticks out nicely with the rest of the track.

Speaking of a mismatch in tone, to go total third person metaphor after a lot of personal anecdotes is weird as fuck. Like, I see how you could tie this back into personal life experience, but “from the perspective inside a domestic violence victim” is some this I’d expect from like Scott Walker, not this record. It’s not a bad song but it’s too abstract to feel like any kind of personal statement.

“The shit can't help but touch you like a pedophile” is the second line on this track. It’s unfortunate because the beat is real nice, but that is like Big Sean level “what the fuck are you doing.” Like, yeah, it makes sense, but that doesn’t make it a good line. He drops that line scheme for two bars after that, brings it back for another two bars, and then never uses it again. Come on. It’s a song about getting closer with God, too. I’m sorry that I’m dwelling on this, it’s just a hideous line.

This is a good goddamn beat! Ending on the loudest track is always encouraged. I’ve got a soft spot for Travis Scott too- no one can say he doesn’t care about what he’s doing. As for the verses, they’re not exactly the strongest stuff on the record, but I think he’s going for the Ending Credits move. I don’t think it’s working for him, but at least he’s leaning into it as hard as he can.
---
As nice of a palette cleanser as it was to listen for a hip hop album for this project, I can’t really say it spoke to me. Granted, I listen to weird shit all the time so if it’s aiming for the mainstream it has to be further out there than this to catch me. At the same time, I can’t say that it wasn’t well made or anything like that. It just disappointed me at a few key points, and so that’s why it’s where it is.

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Awesome, it's been good reading this topic and broadening my musical horizons too. A few things I automatically love like Converge, but stuff outside my normal tastes too. Variety is nice.

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If you are doing albums as a stress response I deeply apologize for giving you what I did

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I'm not last!

 

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6 hours ago, Curt McGirt said:

If you are doing albums as a stress response I deeply apologize for giving you what I did

here is that band I brought up in the beginning of that review, who is a band I listen to often and enjoy deeply

you're good

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Considering you already had Converge at 7 I wasn't worried. Just saying, hardcore punk is not good for stress. Unless you're me in which case it is one of the few things that relieves it

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IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS RECORD IS NOT AS BAD AS THIS RANKING IS GOING TO MAKE IT LOOK. I JUST GOT FRUSTRATED. IT'S A FINE RECORD. PLEASE READ THE TEXT TO UNDERSTAND.

1. "The Order Of Time" by Valerie June
2. “in*ter a*li*a” by At The Drive-In
3. "Screen Memories" by John Maus
4. "No Dope On Sundays" by CyHi The Prynce
5. "Dark Matter" by Les Friction
6. “A Deeper Understanding” by The War On Drugs
7. "The Dusk In Us" by Converge
8. "Out in the Storm" by Waxahatchee
9. “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” by Steve Earle
10. “Life Is Good” by Flogging Molly
11. “Made Of Breath Only” by sleepmakeswaves
12. "Silenciado" by Diagnosis? Bastard!

While I have not heard of sleepmakeswaves, I have definitely felt a need to expand further into post-rock-y things from Australia, although the reason why is a little circuitous. See, there’s this band called The Drones, and this band called The Drones put out this album called I See Seaweed, and the first track on that album called I See Seaweed (called “I See Seaweed”) is maybe the best intro to a record I’m ever going to hear, and it is opulent and massive and dire and all the things I liked about post-rock when I was an insufferable teenager listening to Isis and Pelican and shit. While my opinions on why post-rock is good have changed dramatically, I can’t front like there’s not a soft spot there, and between that and howmany times I listened to that one Drones song and made conductor motions to it in my bedroom, I am going into this record excited.

 

Yes, it is a post-rock intro. They are here to assure me that this is indeed the record I am going to be listening to. I don’t know if you’ve picked this up from how many times I’ve posted about Women and other Calgary bands over the years, but I love clean guitar tones used in disquieting places, and this counts. The slight glitch waves underneath make me hopeful that they commit to that idea.

Oh, wow, okay, this sounds fuckin’ good so far. One of the things that gets me about metal is that the guitar lines have so much distortion that you can’t hear the pick. This is… this is maybe a minor point only I care about, but to my way of thinking, guitars are tonal percussion instruments, so I really like it when the guitar ripples along with the drums instead of just some big yawning noise near it. This occasionally dips too deep into distortion, but it’ll come back out of it just in time to be interesting. Also, hearing that these guys opened for Devin Townsend is maybe the least surprising shit in the world. I haven’t been able to listen to him ever since my ex latched onto Ziltoid as one of her favorite records. By being mostly major key on this first track, this ends up coming off like some peculiar Allman Brothers track in the breakdowns. I do not mind this. God this bass tone is good. I am maybe slightly concerned that they burned through a lot of tricks on this first song, and there’s another 50 minutes of album left, but, we’ll see.

I took the intro moments of this song to see if there were going to be vocals in this band at any point, and it seems not. At the same time, the wikipedia page also tells me the band jokes that they are crescendo-core, which is at least honest. At the same time, it means I’m kind of going to struggle talking about this record- there doesn’t seem to be some guiding idea behind it as far as I can tell, and I’m desperately searching for interviews in the middle because it is basically all the stuff I said about the second song already.

I see you, Frame By Frame reference. I keep expecting Chino Moreno to start screaming and when he doesn’t it kind of weirds me out. I have found the interview where someone asks someone in the band about the themes of the record, and it’s apparently about climate change. I cannot help but feel weird about a climate change record that does not make that expressly clear at any point. That is no small topic for sure, but all of the song titles are exceptionally vague. I guess this is the post-rock version of Rock Lyrics? I dunno. I have definitely had an instrumental album kick my ass before, but the key to that is instrument selection and having a wider array of tone profiles than just A Very Good Rock Band.  I’m maybe a little skeptical how much of their audience understands this is a record about climate change and impermanence. Maybe it’s all in the liner notes and I’m being unfair. I do not have the liner notes. Forgive me.

I probably should not have found this interview because it waffles in a way that reminds me of every san diego metal band ever. “STUFF IS BAD, VAGUELY, I’M NOT SAYING, I’M JUST SAYING.” Man, stop just saying and say. It’s cool. There’s a lot of big guns pointed at earth. You can say “hey, watch out for the big gun” and probably not lose a significant amount of your audience. It is another one of the songs from before, is why I am not mentioning anything about the song. It sounds very professional, they are clearly talented musicians, their bass tone is immaculate, it is not expressly about anything. I guess the main reason I am annoyed by the waffling is because the thing I’m currently working on is the first time I’ve had the need to talk about things outside myself and so I’m working very hard to be articulate about what concerns me. Meanwhile, there’s like five hundred thousand profitable metal bands who don’t take a stronger position than “there is evil somewhere.” It makes me feel trapped, or crazy, or both. Oh, the glitch stuff is back! Man, the idea of a post-rock band ruined by a dying computer holds a lot of appeal to me, and I don’t think they’re going to commit to it, but it’s got my own mind working so that’s good.

Oh, okay, the title track starts with different instruments! Piano and glitchy things! You can do a whole lot with just that! Maybe take a break from throwing up non-specific fists! This… drops the glitchy stuff for more rock band stuff. Okay. Like, it’s not bad. I need to make that expressly clear. All shittalking I may be doing is tied up in my own hangups. This is perfectly fine music that occupies a position I find abhorrent. If you do not think music should try to explicitly be about things, and just want good guitar tones, hey, this is an album with a lot of good guitar tones.

I’m no longer excited anything on this album starts with something different because it veers back into the thing they’ve been doing. It wouldn’t make sense to keep getting your hopes up.

It is at this point that I realize that at the very least I will not have to call Mr. Ending Ballad. This is good news. I am out of things to say about the music on this record.

Okay, NOW I’m no longer excited when anything starts differently on this record. They got me by teasing me with making an ambient track- their sense of tonality and progression makes me think that at least someone in this band would be super badass at making that kind of music- but then it became literally the same thing I have been hearing all record long. Oh! I’ve come up with another thing to say about this record, but I’m gonna have to see if it’s true of the last track too.

Oay, so, the thing I wanted to say is that by spending most of the record in major keys it makes the crescendos feel unearned. There has to be tension to release. Every time they step into anything vaguely dissonant, they step right back out, and just stretch out chords that don’t naturally resolve, which is a fuckin’ half step towards trying to build anything. Unless by crescendo-core they mean “we are literally only interested in crescendos, and just want to skip to that part of Beethoven's stuff” they’re working against their own best interests by doing this. It is the tonal equivalent of “Thoughts and Prayers.” It is all gesture, with no sense that there was ever really an impact. Every song is the dude from the breakfast club lifting his fist and freezeframing 5-20 times. There are vocals, very briefly, which at this point feel like a taunt to me. This song definitely has the most instruments of anything else on here.

---
They are clearly capable musicians- definitely more capable than me- which makes the deficits in their writing that much more personally frustrating. They just do quiet/loud/quiet/loud because it is what rock bands do. It does not signify a thing. They are perhaps not interested in signifying anything. If I’m going to listen to sound that doesn’t signify anything, I’m going to listen to noise records or beat tapes or whatever the fuck Sun Araw is. If you want sound that doesn’t signify anything: guitar edition, this is will do just fine. It is just fine.

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