Thursday, February 18, 2010

Buried Sounds

I remember sometimes waking up in Portland (OR) after a night out, sweating out the events of last night, breathing in the hints of smoke left on my jeans and skin. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world I have to admit, but I can’t help thinking of those mornings when listening to this album. Everything started out sour, but after I got some grub in me and an afternoon shower, I couldn’t have felt better.

Zola Jesus pushed me more than any other artists this year, and I have to admit that I had a really hard time trying to figure out why. The Spoils had similar qualities that made My Bloody Valentine or the Microphones intriguing, but what I have really fallen for is how the keys ride waves of distortion, without being buried underneath them. I keep returning to “Smirenye,” “Soeur Sewer,” and “The Way” like silver antiques hidden under the floorboards in a dusty wooden box with iron trimming, or maybe one buried in your grandmothers garden, made of dented and rusting tin.

This album has been a labor of love for me, and while at moments I lose my train of though, I always come back to a simply melody in the mess. I really dig this album. Check this out if it shines in your direction.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chapters In Good

I am listening to the new Mountain Goats album for the millionth time and wanting to say a few words about the claims surrounding its inspiration. Each song is onThe Life of the World to Come inspired by, though not directly connected, to a particular Bible verse. Mr. Darnielle (songwriter) has spoken publicly describing his own personal faith and how each song relates in various media outlets. What bothers me is that this is a narrative long established that doesn’t need titles from the good book to see where he’s coming from. This is not to condemn the Bible, John, the Goats new album, or even the critics formerly mentioned. I have been stirring over this for a while now and I have come to the conclusion that my argument is over an interpretation and abstraction of religion, not music.

His lyrics have always been, to me at least, stories of redemption spoken through sinful hands. Though not exclusively, this is in many ways a Christian concept that finds reconciliation by allowing suffering to speak. His newest album speaks directly to this, but like I said before, one can look at his older work and see the same themes at play. Sometimes he is bluntly using the Bible on songs like “Love, Love, Love,” when he writes “King Sol fell on his sword / when it all when wrong / and Joseph’s brother / sold him down a river / for a Psalm;” or “Against Pollution,” “This morning / I went to the Catholic Church / because something just came over me. / Forty-five minutes in the pious / praying the rosary.” I want to raise the notion that John has always been able to articulate the same concepts, album after album, without explicitly mentioning religion, but with an understanding of the everyday and mundane.

He finishes the same verse on “Love, Love…” with “And Sonny Liston rubbed some Tiger Balm into his gloves. / Some things you do for money / and some you do for love;” and juxtaposes the “Against” verse with “Decorative grating on my window/ gets a little rustier ever year / I don’t know how the metal gets rusty / when it never rains here.”

The message is that revelations occur, in spite of our moral crisis or lack of understanding. A new way is made, we count our losses, and survive in one way or another. This has been the story, for me at least, while listening to the Mountain Goats and The Life Of The World To Come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Moment Like This

I have been waiting on a full length from Regurgitate to my dissatisfaction for more than a couple years now. No other grind band has mastered the art of how to get so much out of so little as these guys. They have a new split out with Dead Infection and three more killer songs to add to their catalogue.

Their side of the split is titled Yyyaaaaaah, which might make you think, “It seems like a lazy effort, why should I even care?” It might make you think, “How could these Swedish giants be thirsty for blood with a title like that?” It might make you think, “Could this be the same band that gave us Carnivorous Erections?” To this I respond…

1) You should care.
2) This is gore by the gallons.
3) Regurgitate Ain't Nuthing ta F*ck Wit!

It’s gore-grinds audience that limits releases, not talent. This is why you get so many bands creating splits or E.P’s, instead of creating larger, longer bodies of work. That doesn’t change the genius of this band for a second though. In a genre where songs don’t break the two-minute mark, most bands understandably run out of room, but not this Swedish crew. They continually come up with slick and groovy riffs amidst all of the blasting, perfectly balanced out with great vocal arrangements. Rikard Jansson ties pitch shifting with screams like tar on cement, and brings a natural coherence between verse and chorus dynamics. The mere fact that Regurgitate is able to distinguish the two with such ease is cause for thousands grind fans to mosh til their eyes bleed, or maybe just shotgun a few brews on a weekday afternoon.

I am still waiting another Sickening Bliss to be released, but whatever this band pukes out, I will be there to document every second of it, no matter how brief the glory is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Everything Is Everything

I remember hearing Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings back in 2007 and feeling a bit caught off guard. It wasn’t the best thing ever or make my end of year list, instead what made Sa-Ra special was all of the genres that they were able to navigate. Arriving after the neo-soul party had winded down some years ago the album had that kind of feel, and at the same time sounding nothing like the artists of that era. There were more electro flavors, even landing in some minimalist Dub ground at times. If they had shown up circa 2001, when everyone was in the groove, it might have been either too early to appreciate or too crowded get noticed.

Even now I don’t think they are really getting noticed. I would claim that the reason for that is not only the eclectic nature of their sound, which can be distracting, but also how the albums linger on a bit too much. I can understand a group with this much musical talent not wanting to leave any muscle un-flexed but it begins loose direction after a while. That said, I won't stand around while critics damn a lack of creativity in Hip-Hop without talking about Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love. Their sound has expended even more while at the same time coming into greater form. “My Star” is a radio ready R&B track with seductive guest vocals by Erica Rose. My favorite track on the album has to be “Death of a Star (Supernova).” It’s full of disco energy that begs for a dance floor. It all comes to an end with the free-flowing jazz of “Cosmic Ball.”

These guys might never make a Top-Ten list but they should care less since artists shouldn't pay much mind to conventional criticism. However, more critics should be laboring for hours in midnight lit rooms, filled with smoke, heat on full blast, and numb fingers that grow weary with definition. Sa-Ra is that real.