Wednesday, November 1, 2017

11. Alternative Music

From Jack White to Maynard James Keenan, Noah and Justin
discuss their favorite artists of the Alternative genre. 

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Ahead of Myself - X Ambassadors - Single Review

    If you saw my previous X Ambassadors review then you know that I cannot stand this band. Aside from their song designed to sell Jeeps I despised everything on their first album, VHS. Given all of that, you can imagine how much I was looking forward to ripping into their biggest single off of their upcoming second album. Unfortunately, Ahead of Myself actually isn’t too bad.
    The first thing I noticed about this track is Sam Harris’ vocals sound much stronger and overall just better on this track. While Unsteady did showcase a bit of his range, it was in a kind of limp and whiny kind of way. Here Harris presents a pretty powerful and full sounding vocal performance. Unfortunately once you get past the vocals there really isn’t much to the song.
    There is a little bit of a guitar and some drums here and there but it’s a very empty sounding mix for the most part. This would seem to signal to me that X Ambassadors saw the success of Unsteady on pop stations and decided to lean more in that direction. Unlike a band like Imagine Dragons who walk the line between Top 40 and Alternative, X Ambassadors are falling firmly into Top 40 territory.
    I can’t say I expected anything less from this band as VHS was a mess of boring indie songs trying desperately to sound like something deeper. I’m just about ready to call it on X Ambassadors; a boring and unoriginal band with a hell of a lead singer. Overall this song is just okay, nothing special but not nearly as bad as most of their music.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Came Back Haunted - Nine Inch Nails - Track Review

Happy Halloween everybody, today we are looking at the first single off of Nine Inch Nails’ 2013 album, Hesitation Marks. Aside from having a spooky sounding title that fits perfectly with Halloween, this is one of my favorite NIN songs with Hesitation Marks being my favorite album. Most NIN fans would consider that last statement blasphemous, but in my opinion a lot of Reznor’s earlier albums don’t hold up as well now.
Let me first state that I have never been a huge NIN fan; I liked some of With Teeth and some of the other singles but they were never a project I really got into. Hesitation Marks was the first album of Reznor’s that I got into enough to listen the whole thing from beginning to end without skipping around. Even with this album I found that the majority of it felt more like a movie score to my ears, with the only tracks I was really interested in listening to outside the context of the album being Copy Of A, Find My Way and Came Back Haunted.
Came Back Haunted in particular is a good mixture of the 90’s Industrial Rock sound that NIN is known for with some more contemporary electronic elements including some Dubstep leaning bass wobbles. The lyrics to Came Back Haunted seem to be relating to a character in the vein of Victor Snowden, even making an allusion to Deep Throat. While on the surface the lyrics remind me a lot of the kind of conspiracy theory Rock songs Muse put out, their is also a more personal level relating to Reznor’s battle with addiction and depression.
Regardless of the lyrical meanings, this track is the perfect mix of threatening and
danceable that a NIN track should be. Like I said, I love the whole album, but this track is one of the best off of it, and easily the most digestible.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lorde - Perfect Places - Single Review

    Today we are looking at Lorde’s latest single off of her Melodrama album, Perfect Places. I heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago and I really couldn’t stand it. Whereas with Green Light I was just kind of on the fence about, Perfect Places I developed a deep distaste for. The main issue that I have with this track is that Lorde somehow has become boring and maybe even common.
    This isn’t necessarily all Lorde’s fault as she managed to be a bit before her time, striking it big before the trend of dark electropop started. Because of how long it took for her to release her follow up, Lorde’s style has now been endlessly copied by artists like Halsey, Selena Gomez and even Taylor Swift. So now that Lorde has come back to the post Royals world of mainstream music, she’s no longer particularly original or unique sounding anymore.
    Further hurting Lorde’s potential to stand out with this track is her choice to base the lyrics around the all too common theme of the consequences of partying. These lyrics wouldn’t seem out of place in a Drake or Lana Del Rey song, but again the issue is that these artists set the trends that have been done to death now. Of the few changes that Lorde has made to her style, the additions she made to this song make it blend it even more as the stark emptiness of her earlier work made it stand out more.
    I want to listen to the full album Melodrama before making a complete judgement on Lorde, but I’m worried that much like Drake, the originality of her earlier content isn’t going to hold up on subsequent releases now that she is established. I have heard a lot of good reviews of Melodrama, so it’s entirely possible that my personal opinion is not in line with the majority opinion on these new tracks. I’m personally hoping that the rest of the album is dramatically better than these two singles. Either way, I don’t like this song but I can see why other people would.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard-Flying Microtonal Banana / An Album Review

    Today we are looking at an album that I had recommended to me quite a while ago but just never got around to writing a review of. I listened to this album multiple times over the last months but couldn’t ever real figure out how I wanted to talk about it. But I’ve decided today to quit putting it off and finally do a review of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard’s album Flying Microtonal Banana. If that name isn’t a dead giveaway, these guys are a pretty weird band. Featuring seven members with three guitarists, two drummers and a bassist as well as interludes of synth, piano, harmonica and flute.

    For a little background on this band I highly recommend a Premier Guitar article entitled Microtonal Madmen where Stu Mackenzie and Joey Walker (two of the guitarists) are interviewed. To sum it up, King Gizzard started as a jam band among friends who played in various bands and the seven man band consists of the guys who stayed and made it their main band. Flying Microtonal Banana is their 9th studio album and features the interesting gimmick of using microtonal instruments, that is instruments with extra notes not commonly found in western music.
    To better explain this I have a few diagrams I’ve made to demonstrate the difference between Mackenzie’s Banana guitar and a standard one.

The Banana has six extra frets that are placed halfway between where two normal frets on a guitar would be creating “in between” quarter notes.

These quarter notes are not typically heard in Western music but are very common in Eastern music such as traditional Arabic, Indian, Japanese and Chinese music. Because of their association with Eastern music, quarter tones have a very exotic sound to those who are familiar with Western music.
    Getting to the album itself, it is way more melodic and enjoyable to listen to than I first anticipated. Many of these type of weird for the sake of weirdness bands cross over into unlistenable territory, but as weird as King Gizzard get they are always making music. I’m not 100% sure of the recording process for this album, but I have to believe that at the very least the demos for this album came from hitting from record and jamming. Every track has the feel of clips from a 70’s psychedelic rock band’s jam session. The mix of traditional western rock conventions with the Eastern tinged sounds brought out by the microtonal instruments creates a really cool sound throughout this album.
    Stand out tracks in my opinion are the opening track Rattlesnake, Open Water and Nuclear Fusion. Rattlesnake is one of the most straightforward songs on the album, reminding me a bit of a lighter take on a Doom Metal song, featuring heavy repetition and subtle shifts of the main riffs over it’s 7 minute length. Open Water is driven by an Egyptian/Middle Eastern sounding drone and a vocal drone that is doubled by something that sounds like a Sitar. Along with the Eastern elements on Open Water there is also an extremely tight and dynamic rhythm section, with the twin percussionists and bassist doing an amazing job at grounding the otherwise floaty track.
    Nuclear Fusion is about halfway between Rattlesnake and Open Water, being a fairly straightforward Alt rock track but still having those heavy Eastern sounds. The drumming is also superb on this track, with plenty of delicious fills in the transitions of this track.
    This is an album that is best experienced as an album rather than as a collection of tracks. I highly recommend just putting this on and letting it wash over you, just don’t expect to be productive as some of the dronier bits become a very relaxing wall of sound after a while. If you’re looking for something different or weird give this one a listen, it will be well worth your time.

Monday, October 16, 2017

10. Halloween Rock Special

Justin and Noah bring you the music to rock out all October long, plus Justin's Hot Flash explores the classic New Orleans TV show Morgus Presents.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Bobby "Borris" Pickett The Monster Rap- Song Review

    Now we get into the cheese. Today we’re looking at Bobby “Borris” Pickett (The Monster Mash guy) and one of his various attempts to score a second hit. After the huge success of the Monster Mash, Pickett did various other parodies and spoofs throughout the years including the Transylvania Twist, Monsters Holiday, a Star Drek and even a King Kong parody. The biggest follow up hit he ever had was The Monster Rap, a cheesy 80’s rap song that served as a sequel of sorts to that graveyard smash.
    The track effectively mixes 80’s synths with the typical horror movie/sci-fi sounds you’d expect and a funky bass line. Funnily enough, as goofy and cheesy as this song is the rap verses by the monster aren’t that much worse than typical 80’s rap songs. The basic idea of the song is the story of Frankenstein’s monster told as a rap song, intercut with lines by Igor, samples of the monster roaring and complete rap verses by the monster.
    The sad part is I actually kind of prefer this one to the monster mash as a song; they’re both cheesy songs that no one should ever listen to outside the month of October, but this one actually some cool things going on with the music. The 80’s hip hop beat mixed with sci-fi noises and monster samples actually sounds pretty cool and that funky bass line is completely danceable. Like I said, I wouldn’t recommend this outside the month of October, but leading up to Halloween, why not throw this on and get into the graveyard smash made for everyone out there looking to bust a rhyme.