The big hairy beast from Georgia charges at full-speed.
Mastodon have done it again. The Atlanta boys were already on top of the metal world with 2004’s astonishing Leviathan, followed by 2006’s ridiculously awesome Blood Mountain. Their much-awaited follow-up Crack the Skye is equally breath-taking, but it also takes their brand of prog-metal to a new and fascinating place.
With over fifty minutes of music packed into seven songs, each song on Skye is a voyage. Just as Leviathan was a rock record based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, this album takes a thematic route again by drawing upon czarist Russia. The figures in the cover even look like Rasputins of sorts, spewing light from their mouths while book-ending a giant bear. While some might call the group genre-bending or attach prefixes like math, alt, post or prog, there’s no denying their metallic nature: Churning guitars, punishing drums, a head-banging pace, shredding solos and the occasional death howl.
“Divinations” is one of the finest tracks. It starts with a simple banjo part but the thrash comes in soon enough. They achieve some of their most melodic and ambitious moments on tracks like this one, “The Czar,” and “The Last Baron.” Not only are these songs meticulously crafted but they bring to mind some of the best metal of the past: early Sabbath, pre-lame Metallica and Neurosis. In fact, Neurosis’ Scott Kelly lends vocal support on the title track and it’s that much better for it. On tracks like “The Czar” and “The Last Baron,” they push past the ten-minute mark and for one song, you don’t really notice how long each is. You just lose yourself in the endless tempo switches, guitar layers and drumming. Where previous records consisted of shorter heavier tracks, these songs really wander and progress. The metal is still heavy here, but it’s that much heavier when it’s couched by spacey melodies with the occasional help of some keys.
Mastadon breathes new life into an often tired genre. These tattooed stoners from Georgia have won the hearts of snobby music critics, die-hard metal heads and even non-metal rock enthusiasts. There’s no denying talent and originality – Mastadon’s got it in spades.
Mos Def The Ecstatic SOUNDS LIKE: Hands down the best thing he’s done since Black on Both Sides (10 years ago!); heaping handful of solid beats. FREE ASSOCIATION: Are you an actor/rapper or rapper/actor, man? Pick one. FOR FANS OF: Nas, Lupe Fiasco
Wilco Wilco (The Album) SOUNDS LIKE: Nothing epic here, just run o’ the mill Wilco but more Summerteeth/Yankee Hotel than A Ghost Is Born, a good thing. FREE ASSOCIATION: Dad rock, but for dads who drink beer and play pedal guitar. FOR FANS OF: Jayhawks, Bob Seger
Jeremih Jeremih SOUNDS LIKE: Surprisingly solid debut from R&B newbie with a hit in “Birthday Sex,” a jam about givin’ a lady a nice present. FREE ASSOCIATION: Serious club fodder, like a male-version of Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad. FOR FANS OF: R. Kelly, silk, Cristal
Dysrhythmia Psychic Maps SOUNDS LIKE: Philly trio’s fifth LPof post-postness with wordless metal, thrashing instrumentals and goth cover. FREE ASSOCIATION: The occasional death scream wouldn’t hurt. FOR FANS OF: Mastodon, Fugazi
The Fiery Furnaces I’m Going Away SOUNDS LIKE: Bizarro cool bro/sis duo’s seventh record (in six years) with an ear for quirk-rock that tells stories over drums, keys and axes. FREE ASSOCIATION: Your house must’ve been mad weird when you were young. FOR FANS OF: Dirty Projectors, White Stripes
Sick Puppies Tri-Polar SOUNDS LIKE: Energized Aussie outfit’s third LP that barely eschews emo, grazes pop-punk, but face plants in alt power-rock hard. FREE ASSOCIATION: In America we have this band called Fall Out Boy, mate. Avoid ‘em. FOR FANS OF: Silverchair, angst
Adelitas Way Adelitas Way Sounds Like: Major label generic power emo reminiscent of Daughtry and Nickelback, but somehow more pretentious. FREE ASSOCIATION: Good rock bands just don’t come from Vegas. FOR FANS OF: Creed, seriously
Reign Supreme Testing the Limits of Infinite SOUNDS LIKE: Philly-born metal band’s debut LP with some SERIOUS SCREAMING; multiple, constant screamers. FREE ASSOCIATION: Wouldn’t pick up on the holy themes without the liner notes. FOR FANS OF: Death, shirtless moshing
Regina Spektor Far SOUNDS LIKE: Follow-up to Begin to Hope does not disappoint—tiny piano pop opuses with quirky but deep lyricism. FREE ASSOCIATION: Not as cute as “Better” and “Fidelity,” but it’ll do. FOR FANS OF: St. Vincent, Cat Power
Public Enemies Music From the Motion Picture SOUNDS LIKE:A sad bastard mix of drunken jazz age blues (Billie), virtuoso strumming (Otis Taylor) and dramatic scoring. FREE ASSOCIATION: Seya toots, bring me anudda Gin Rickey, will ya? FOR FANS OF: Tommyguns, pinstripes
Jay Brannan In Living Cover SOUNDS LIKE: Shortbus gay boy does a batch of covers including Verve Pipe, Joni, Dylan, Ani and Cranberries. FREE ASSOCIATION: You sure are pretty, but you should’ve left Joni alone. FOR FANS OF: Dick, gay stuff
Young Fresh Fellows I Think This Is SOUNDS LIKE: Seattle vets churn out a dizzying set of energetic short bursts full of guitar hooks, choruses and Modest Mouseness. FREE ASSOCIATION: It’s all a little too clean and calculated. Glasses are involved. FOR FANS OF: Sloan, They Might Be Giants
Constants The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension SOUNDS LIKE: Debut LP of sprawling post-rock from Boston with serious titles, overserious content and seriously long songs. FREE ASSOCIATION: The Shame, The Boredom, The Emo FOR FANS OF: Bad Tool
The Dear Hunter Act III: Life and Death SOUNDS LIKE: Oh boy, loud and energetic Boston-bred emo power-punk from a dude who used to be in the Receiving End of Sirens. Free Association: How do you get your voice to do that emo whine? Make it stop. For Fans Of: My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy
Sol.illaquists of Sound No More Heroes SOUNDS LIKE: A quartet of DJ/emcees, boys and girls, hand out solid beats and solid spoken/sung delivery and crafty instrumentation. FREE ASSOCIATION: Damn—sick hip-hop can come from Orlando? FOR FANS OF: Saul Williams, Aesop Rock
Ginuwine A Man’s Thoughts SOUNDS LIKE: The self-proclaimed R&B legend drops a much-anticipated collection of breathy, beat-heavy sexy-time morsels. FREE ASSOCIATION: Thank you, baby Jesus, for “Pony” and “In Those Jeans.” FOR FANS OF: Knockin’ boots, sexy times, abs
I'm sitting at my little Northern Liberties perch up on the third floor. I look down at the school-house condos' parking lot and two big fields that I anticipate in a number of years will be built up and developed. But for now it's wide open. I see church spires, row homes, and blocks that are hundreds of feet away. I see the same cars usually - that sexy little navy Porsche convertible, that boxy white VW Rabbit (maybe, I don't know). I saw a bum walk toward N Front St today shouting indecipherable rants to the air this morning, but mostly I see hip young white people: tattoos, messy hair, some with big plastic glasses, most with meticulously un-meticulous wardrobes. No matter, I relish this space. It's so clean and serene.
This morning I listen to "The Train Song" sang by Feist with Ben Gibbard for Dark Was The Night. It's a slow guitar strum that does manage to sound like the rhythm of a road (or a train) - chugging, churning, moving toward something on a trip. "It's so many miles and so long since I've met, don't even know what I find when I get to you, but suddenly now, I know where I belong" sing Leslie and Ben together and then the infectious chorus comes in: "It's many hundred miles and it woooon't be long." The later choruses are lifted up with the help of some kind of choral background vocals. The other day I was riding my bike to work and this song came on my shuffle. I have had this Dark Was The Night record for a while but it's spread all over my iTunes because there are so many artists on it. I figured out how to go back with my shuffle, a triple click on toward the bottom, so I listened to "The Train Song" at least four times singing the chorus as loudly as I could.
There are a few moments that I love about my trips to Center City from here. When I walked up N Front to the Girard El stop there's a pretty nutso intersection at Girard and Front. A trolley splits both directions (east and west-bound) and springs up little islands to wait for the trolley between car lanes, there's a crosswalk signal that goes from Walk to a countdown to Don't Walk within about three seconds, but somehow I manage to walk right up to the crosswalk at the right time. I won't go into the convenience store just past the stairway up to the station unless I'm drunk and want cigarettes. The couple times that I've gone in in the morning, foolishly looking for a grill or cans of soda I've practically been chased out by a crimped-hair, aggravated, shouting woman.
"This fucking city is run by pigs, they take away the rights from all the kids," Dave Longstreth sings, "I walk down the street, I flip them off, they hit me across the head with a billy club. Nothing I do, noooothing I say, I tell them to go Get Fucked. They put me awayyyaaayyyyy, awwwwaaaayayyayyayyyaaaa." The Dirty Projectors have been soundtracking my life for the past couple months. This is one of my favorite parts of Rise Above. These lyrics are delivered kind of spastically but bookended by airy and calming flutes and background vocals on "Police Story." I smile whenever I hear the first soaring flutes. This song makes me feel like I live in a city. I do, I know that. But this song really confirms it for me. I'm a part of a big breathing urban culture, there are cops everywhere, but I'm in good shape as long as I stay in line and let the other creepier, more fucked up residents step up and take the brunt of attention.
There's a stretch of 10th Street between Spring Garden and Chinatown that's pretty weird. Ridge Avenue juts into 10th at a weird angle right at Callowhill. There are like three lights that I have to acknowledge and after you cross through this intersection you are bombarded by a wave of stink. Whatever is in that damn warehouse is rotten or is an above-ground dumpster space. It's right next to a sign shop, yup, signs. The other day I rode by and saw a "Now Serving Breakfast" sign with some breakfast clip art and for a split second I was like 'Oooh, breakfast. Here, really? Oh wait. That's just a sign they made.' I wouldn't be able to eat near that shit smell anyway.
I've been listening to this Major Lazer record non-stop. It's a Philadelphia project with Diplo calling on a London dude named Switch to make some grimey dancehall-type electro dance music. It feels like it's from Jamaica. I did a 30 Second Review of it and I compared it to the Kill Bill soundtrack but blunted, oily, naked and blacklit. For shear concerns of space, blunted got taken out and that was disappointing. But I do love "Mary Jane," it's one of my favorite tracks, if not for the one line "so I suck his Buddha stick" then for the chorus of "roll it, twist it, spark it up." My other favorites are "Hear the Bassline" and "Pon de Floor." I wrote that it sounds like it will make bitches wanna pop that booty. I am one of those bitches. I am learning everyday, with the help of this record, how most effectively to pop my booty. My roommate, Sierra, would have you believe that I do it well already. She is impressed and tries to pop her booty with me but seems to feel like I do it better than her. One day I will be an excellent breakdancer.
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.