Monday, March 29, 2010

Dillinger Escape Plan's new record reviewed

Thrash is an Available Option, Too

The Dillinger Escape Plan’s fourth album, Option Paralysis, is a stunner for sure. Most metalheads have been raving about this record as not only their best yet but an effective blend of the successful sounds and techniques from previous records, namely 1999’s Calculating Infinity and 2007’s Ire Works. While the band has seen countless lineup changes, original guitarist Ben Weimann is the glue holding together this mathcore metal band from Morris Plains, N.J. Hardcore metal worshipers will rejoice with DEP’s newest and longest opus of stylish, progged-out screamo.

The best part about Paralysis is its diversity. Greg Puciato is one of the driving forces behind this album; his voice has reached a strong, virtuoso range. He can scream and scream until his eyes are about to pop, then turn on a dime to a soft, melodic croon. The opener and first single, “Farewell, Mona Lisa,” is an alarming wake-up call. This is not a record to meditate to; this is for fans of Coheed & Cambria’s heaviest or Megadeth. Weimann and Jeff Tuttle’s guitar work is actually quite nuanced; their tinny scales climb and descend at breakneck speed behind the powerful drum kit of Billy Rymer. Then suddenly, two minutes deep, you catch a breather with a slowed-down tempo and a tender vocal. There’s no such relief in the following song, “Good Neighbors.” It’s two and a half minutes of total head-banging.

Standouts and strong candidates for converting non-metal freaks to the dark side of heavy rock are “Gold Teeth on a Bum” and the shockingly beautiful “Widower.” “Gold Teeth” gives the record a sense of depth not only in sound but in songwriting and emotion as the band mine some of their strongest lyrics for this polemic. Meanwhile, “Widower” is a tinkly, delicate piano ballad clocking in at over six minutes with not a hint of metal until minute four.

While “Chinese Whispers” and two-minute punk thrasher “Crystal Morning” will undoubtedly appeal to Warped Tour followers, Alternative Press readers, and devotees of Anthrax or Faith No More, they’re no indication of what a listen to this record is really like. It’s almost a tough one to enjoy for those unaccustomed to a serious scream and a relentless headbanging pace, but once you sink your teeth in you realize there are plenty of calmer, peaceful moments to let you appreciate the artistry and musicianship at work here. For a metal record, this one will get longhairs whipping around and office punks bobbing their knees and tapping their pen in time.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

30 Second Reviews from 3/23

Plastic Beach

SOUNDS LIKE: The super group's long-awaited follow up to Demon Days is solid but not a revelation, guests like Snoop, Mos, and Lou Reed help out
FREE ASSOCIATION: Nobody does singing hip hop cartoons quite like they do
FOR FANS OF: Handsome Boy Modeling School, Dr. Octogon, Blur

Broken Bells
Broken Bells

SOUNDS LIKE: Shins man James Mercer and Danger Doom make a stylized Shins record with a bit more variety, atypical rhythms and instrumentation
FREE ASSOCIATION: Not sure leaving your boys in Portland was such a good idea, James
FOR FANS OF: Shins, Harlem Shakes, druggy AC Newman

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Brutalist Bricks

SOUNDS LIKE: The D.C. mod punk's first on Matador is a high-energy romp through his unique ramped up approach to alternative folk rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: You don't need to have studied his deep catalogue to enjoy this gem
FOR FANS OF: Sloan, The Hold Steady, Dismemberment Plan

Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis
(Party Smasher/Season of Mist)

SOUNDS LIKE: Avant garde mathcore metal with a decidedly punk-infused progressive rock sound from Jersey
FREE ASSOCIATION: There are no breaks here; the thrash and the screaming is constant
FOR FANS OF: Mars Volta, Anthrax, Tool, Melvins, Neurosis

Matt Pond PA
The Dark Leaves
(Altitude Records)

SOUNDS LIKE: Smart, sensitive and elegant chamber rock that left Philly for Brooklyn but kept the PA and kept making solid records
FREE ASSOCIATION: Same ole, same ole, solidly built and listenable indie rock
FOR FANS OF: Pedro the Lion, Rogue Wave, Superchunk

Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me
(Drag City)

SOUNDS LIKE: Three-disc opus of brilliant restrained vocal acrobatics couched in heavenly, billowing harp, guitar, light percussion and smarts
FREE ASSOCIATION: It does this lady no service to peg her as a version of another folk diva
FOR FANS OF: Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, St. Vincent

Xiu Xiu
Dear God, I Hate Myself
(Kill Rock Stars)

SOUNDS LIKE: Jamie Stewart and Co. make moody, complex and electronic experimental rock with clever self-deprecation
FREE ASSOCIATION: Self-loathing to the extreme has yielded a beautifully twisted record
FOR FANS OF: Deerhoof meets Cure times Joy Division

Soldier of Love

SOUNDS LIKE: The Queen of Adult R&B's first in eight years is a funky, almost hip hop-flavored slow dance record for making love with one's self
FREE ASSOCIATION: The title track is one of the best things we've heard in a long time
FOR FANS OF: Diana, Dionne, Whitney, Toni, Erykah, Grace, Mary

Holy shit this is beautiful

Monday, March 22, 2010

CONFESSION: I like the Whip It soundtrack

I haven't seen the film. I hope to at some point no matter how ghastly it is reported to be. But I found a copy of the soundtrack in the mail at Philly Weekly and I've been listening to it. It's really fun.


Tilly and the Wall - "Pot Kettle Black"
Ramones - "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"
Cut Chemist feat. Hymnal - "What's the Altitude"
The Breeders - "Bang On"
The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "Blue Turning Grey"
Jens Lekman - "Your Arms Around Me"
Gotye - "Learnalilgivinanlovin"
Peaches - "Boys Wanna Be Her"
Dolly Parton - "Jolene"
38 Special - "Caught Up in You"
Har Mar Superstar feat. Adam Green - "Never My Love"
Goose - "Black Gloves"
The Ettes - "Crown of Age"
Landon Pigg feat. Turbo Fruits - "High Times"
Little Joy - "Unattainable"
The Chordettes - "Lollipop (Squeak E. Clean & Desert Eagles Remix)"
The Go! Team - "Doing It Right"
Apollo Sunshine - "Breeze"
Lorene Scafaria - "28"

30 Second Reviews from 3/16

Dr. Dog
Shame, Shame

SOUNDS LIKE: Much-anticipated collection of great new tracks; dreamy, psych-tinged retro rock spiked by moments of funkalicious modernity
FREE ASSOCIATION: Perhaps the biggest deal Philly band destined for acclaim of all kinds
FOR FANS OF: Pavement meets Spoon, Shins times Apples in Stereo

Drive By Truckers
The Big To-Do
(ATO Records)

SOUNDS LIKE: True practitioners of southern rock, devotees of the triple guitar attack, their eighth LP isn't as much Skynyrd as Neil Young & Crazy Horse
FREE ASSOCIATION: Sketches of scenarios, characters, and southern pride done right
FOR FANS OF: Backyard Tire Fire, Allman Brothers, Jason Isbell

Standard Fare
The Noyelle Beat
(Bar/None Records)

SOUNDS LIKE: Sheffield, UK trio of feel-good power pop's debut is all the buzz with lots of energy and plenty of standout tracks
FREE ASSOCIATION: "Fifteen" and "Dancing" are solid, but "Philadelphia" is where it's at!
FOR FANS OF: Weezer's blue album, Blondie, Lemonheads

Let's Wrestle
In the Court of the Wrestling Let's
(Merge Records)

SOUNDS LIKE: A London trio's playfully silly spin on King Crimson's similarly titled LP is heavy rock infused by old soul, lo-fi rock and balls out punk rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: That title sure is a mouthful, a mouthful of awesome, that is
FOR FANS OF: Pavement, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Art Brut

Mose Allison
The Way Of The World

SOUNDS LIKE: The brilliant blues jazz pianist's first studio effort in 12 years is full of amazing guests, solos and lyrics, go'on Mose, tickle those keys!
FREE ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Anti, for taking this wayward old man (he's 81) into your fold
FOR FANS OF: Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller

Sally Seltmann
Heart That's Pounding
(Arts & Crafts)

SOUNDS LIKE: Leaving behind the New Buffalo moniker, the Aussie's first solo effort is airy, romantic and delicately orchestrated chamber pop
FREE ASSOCIATION: No different from the first two; sighing vocals and piano-led instrumentation
FOR FANS OF: Feist, Beth Orton, Emily Haines, Jens Lekman

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Dirty Shirt Rock'N'Roll: The First Ten Years
(Marjordomo Records)

SOUNDS LIKE: The best stuff from before their hiatus is a raucous, bluesy romp full of ballsy drumming, textures and shouting brilliant nonsense
FFREE ASSOCIATION: Less blues than funky, soulful rock that forces you to move and groove
FOR FANS OF: Pussy Galore, Royal Trux, Black Keys + Flava Flav

Masta Killa
Masta Killa Live
(Gold Dust)

SOUNDS LIKE: The 9th and forgotten member of Wu Tang, High Chief/Noodles has blossomed under GZA's tutelage and now he's a grown-ass MC
FREE ASSOCIATION: Most live hip hop records would be a joke but this one's got flow for days
FOR FANS OF: Cappadonna, Method Man, kung fu movies, Brooklyn

Some Calendar listings I wrote

The French duo from Versailles have perfected what they do: vocoder and moog-laden easy listening space jams. Sounds kind of boring, but it’s sexy times of the past, present and future wrapped in metallics with lasers shooting out of the seams. Their latest, Love, is no revelation. But they’ll no doubt dump their bag of tricks on stage, rework them live and deliver gems from Moon Safari and Talkie Walkie in ways you’d never believe. They’re famous for taking crowd favorites and creating entirely different versions live. Don’t think their ambient trip-hop is something they just push a button to play; synthesizers and wurlitzers will be made love to on stage the way only a Frenchman can manage. -Bill Chenevert

Thurs., March 18, 8pm. $40-$43. With AM + DJ Justin Paul. Electric Factory, 421 N. Seventh St. 215.627.1332.


David Bazan
David Bazan, the mind behind extremely popular emo group Pedro the Lion, is a multi-instrumental maven responsible for almost 20 years of thoughtful, beautiful rock 'n’ roll. His first full-length solo, 2009’s Curse Your Branches, is the brilliant solo record everyone knew he had in him. Full of his telltale threads of relationships to God, good, evil and others, it’s a brilliant testament to the man’s many talents. Critics and fans doubted he could do it after an abrupt disappearance from the rock radar, but he’s back and more powerful than ever before. His set will bring tears to the eyes of Pedro fans, and earn him a new following. -B.C.

8pm. $12. With Headlights. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 215.821.7575.

Some Joanna Newsom songs I like

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Low Anthem

For countrified indie folk fans, this is a dream lineup. Three rising stars in a mysteriously regionless genre, country boots get wedged on by Low Anthem in R.I., Annie & the Beekeepers in Boston and Lissie in L.A. Anthem has sold out big shows supporting the Avett Brothers and it’s no surprise that their gorgeous, soulful approaches to songwriting go together like hootin’ and hollerin’. Main man Ben Knox Miller is infectious on their big summer release Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. And to top it off, Lissie is the next big thing in folksy indie rock á la Jenny Lewis and Neko Case. -Bill Chenevert

8pm. $13. With Annie & the Beekeepers + Lissie. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 215.821.7575.

Too late, but, would've been a great show.

Check it on PW.

30 Second Reviews from 3/12

Jaguar Love
Hologram Jams
(Fat Possum)

SOUNDS LIKE: Indie electro rock from Portland with members of Blood Brothers is mostly beats, synths, scream-singing and chaos
FREE ASSOCIATION: Requirements to enjoy: body odor, alcohol/drug abuse, crazy hair
FOR FANS OF: Pretty Girls Make Graves, NIN, Basement Jaxx


SOUNDS LIKE: Shaking the post-punk dance revival stigma, these LA arty boys make moody, ethereal and brilliant rock that defies genres
FREE ASSOCIAITON: Each song is unique but all have heavy drums, grit and distortion
FOR FANS OF: Lightning Bolt, Radiohead plus Battles, Crystal Castles

Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain't No Grave
(American/Def Jam/Lost Highway)

SOUNDS LIKE: THE MAN's posthumous recordings keep coming, thanks to Rick Rubin, and it's a bittersweet mix of awe and wonder
FREE ASSOCIATION: Between June's and his death he kept growlin' and we'll give it a listen
FOR FANS OF: Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard

Los Campesinos!
Romance Is Boring
(Arts & Crafts)

SOUNDS LIKE: The Welsh-born septet's third is much loved/hated; kitchen sink indie pop at its finest/worst full of bodies, voices, sounds, quirky lyrics and hooks
FREE ASSOCIATION: More punky and experimental, a far cry from "You! Me! Dancing!"
FOR FANS OF: Architecture in Helsinki, angry Broken Social Scene

Only The Dead See The End Of The War

SOUNDS LIKE: Baghdad metal band's VICE debut is a brash, aggressive and menacing EP better than most American metal nitwits
FREE ASSOCIATION: The Heavy Metal in Baghdad subjects now live in NJ - effing politics, man!
FOR FANS OF: Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden

Home Acres

SOUNDS LIKE: Friends from Ohio and PA fill out their sixth rich LP of swelling, energetic, harmonious and sometimes heavy indie rock
FREE ASSOCIATION: They take the good stuff from bands you're not so sure about and KILL IT
FOR FANS OF: Minus the Bear, Matt Pond PA, Built to Spill

Dub Police
Scion CD Sampler V. 28
(Scion AV)

SOUNDS LIKE: Yes, it's strange that Scion delivers such brilliance but it's no fluke; this collection is up there with the Sharon Jones/Daptones remixes
FREE ASSOCIAITON: Realize it or not, they're giving drivers blunted bug out driving music
FOR FANS OF: Dubstep, Hyperdub, Drum and bass, Grime, the UK

These New Puritans

SOUNDS LIKE: The Brits' sophomore is a triumph of orchestral horns, grimey beats, percussion and keys with atypical compositions and structures
FREE ASSOCIATION: "We Want War" is one of the best things we've heard in a while
FOR FANS OF: The Fall, Gang of Four x Animal Collective, doombeat


30 Second Reviews from 3/5

Odd Blood
(Secretly Canadian)

SOUNDS LIKE: The Brooklyn long-hairs' sophomore is still tripped out indie rock but less tribal and more DFA/dancefloor ready this time
FREE ASSOCIATION: DJs, you can now stop playing "Sunrise" and "2080." No? OK.
FOR FANS OF: Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, Le Loup

Massive Attack

SOUNDS LIKE: Ominous and ambient as ever, this time with a bunch of guests, but it lacks the experimental heart of the heavy-hitting LPs
FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh cool, Hope Sandoval, TV on the Radio and Blur dudes; still no Blue Lines
FOR FANS OF: New Order, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, dub

Georgia Anne Muldrow
Kings Ballad

SOUNDS LIKE: A futuristic Quincy Jones, she does it all and frequently, her fifth full-length of soulful and groovy R&B in as many years
FREE ASSOCIATION: Title track is a tribute to MJ, but it's not all elegies; hypnotic neo-soul at its finest
FOR FANS OF: Ms. Badu, k-os, India.Arie, Dam-Funk

Lightspeed Champion
Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You

SOUNDS LIKE: Texas-born, Essex, UK-raised, formerly of dance punk's Test Icicles, now he makes electrified, rich and eerie funk folk
FREE ASSOCATION: SO HIP; plays/writes with The Horrors, Basement Jaxx, Arctic Monkeys, etc.
FOR FANS OF: Margot & her So and So's, Andrew Bird, NME

Rocky Votolato
True Devotion

SOUNDS LIKE: A Texan turned Seattle punk, the veteran folk singer/songwriter's third Barsuk LP is a beautiful, happier version of Elliot Smith
FREE ASSOCIAITON: Glad you left those angry, emo punks (Waxwing) behind and lit some candles
FOR FANS OF: Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, open mic nights

The Floating Celebration
(Night World)

SOUNDS LIKE: Lyn Vaus is an enigmatic DC gent who's debut LP is a moody throwback tip of the hat to Velvet Underground
FREE ASSOCIAITON: This could've come out forty years ago; droney, funky, barely trying
FOR FANS OF: Lou Reed, Modern Lovers, Brian Ferry, xanax, valium

Sunshine Enema

SOUNDS LIKE: San Fran house outfit blasts synths, beats and more synths with cheeky lyrics about fighting mindless consumerism
FREE ASSOCIATION: Like a young androgynous goth grew up OBSESSED with NIN and Fischerspooner
FOR FANS OF: Dark Bjork, dark !!!, dark Duran Duran, then lasers!

Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package

SOUNDS LIKE: Philly hip hop and State Property lifer's Rhymesayers' label debut is a sick collab with Seattle's Jake One full of beats and ego
FREE ASSOCIAITON: Oh damn, the CD case is a wallet and the lyrics are on dollars! So hood!
FOR FANS OF: Just Blaze, Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z, smokin' cheeb


Thursday, March 4, 2010

These New Puritans new record review

Beats Make Doom Sound Fun

It’s all about the rhythm with These New Puritans. Head honcho Jack Barnett, responsible for songwriting, vocals, and production, claims Wu-Tang Clan as a hearty influence on his band’s sound. Good thing New York’s grimiest hip-hop titans made their way across the ocean, as the beats presented on These New Puritans’ second LP Hidden are merciless. In fact, Barnett (whose twin brother, George, provides live drumming) has said he intends there to be refrains in his records, both individually and as a discography. And if there’s one refrain it’s percussion, both synthetic and physical.

You don’t get the full force of the drums until “We Want War,” a stellar and awe-inspiring seven-minute opus that prominently features heavy, martial drumming. The first single off of Hidden, it’s also accompanied by a visually flawless video directed by Daniel Askill. Its stylish take on ballistics footage hearkens back to TNP’s connection to fashion: The group produced the soundtrack to legendary fashion designer Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme show in 2007.

It all makes sense, as this record would accompany a runway show perfectly. It’s dramatic and moody, it’s pop music meets dancehall, it’s grime meets post-punk revival, it’s catchy and above all, it’s got a great beat. The foursome incorporate many disparate elements; in most moments this works seamlessly but it sometimes feels a little forced, as if its trying to be trendy. The tribalism of Animal Collective has leaked into many burgeoning rock bands, and while giant Japanese drums pounded to dark perfection are infectious, it’s not enough to carry an entire record.

“Attack Music” and “Fire – Power” are catchy in their chanting repetition and “Hologram” surprises with delicacy. It’s not all beats—These New Puritans employ choral arrangements and tickled pianos here and there. But to be clear, this record will more easily win over fans of Nine Inch Nails and Liars, and there’s definitely going to be a new army of devotees emerging as a result of Hidden. It’s the most attractive record the band could have possibly put out at this moment in time. But will it be the greatest of the year, or of their career? Probably not.