Best of 2006: Victor Scott

Since this is the first time I’ve actually written down a year end list for publication, allow me to subject you to the navel gazing I’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks. Should I include more obscure musics on my list? Should I put more Vancouver artists on the list? If everyone else puts Joanna Newsom on their list, should I bother? Crap, most of the stuff I’ve been listening to was released in 2005! And finally, the realization that, according to last.fm, my favourite artist of the year is myself.

This is no surprise actually, because I listen to my own music way too much when I’m demo-ing it and writing it. the real list of my favourite songs of the year are for the most part, the songs that I’ve written but haven’t recorded yet. They remain in my head pure and unsullied by the compromises and realities of the recording process (that belly dance version of “Gotta Go” with George Abdo and his Flames of Araby Orchestra will probably never be realized).

Favourite songs (I wrote) this year (and contradicting what I just wrote most of these have been recorded): “Pink Motorola,” “High Fructose Corn Syrup,” “Dreamland,” “Atomic Clock,” & “Hollow Leg.”

None of those songs have been released yet though, too bad for you. As far as the rest of the music world goes, I experienced more disappointments than anything, suffering as I was from new music fatigue. I stuck with new records by old favourites and old records by old favourites. With a few notable exceptions, the new records by old favourites didn’t stick.

There is nothing quite comparable to seeing a new record by a favourite musician in the local record store. The excitement that demands you must buy it unheard. The anticipation as you rip it open in the car ‘cause you can’t wait to get home. The rising panic as you flip through each track hoping that it will be the one that recaptures the magic that made you like their music in the first place and the disappointment when you realize that you’ve been through all the songs twice, the record sucks, and you just blew $20 on something you’ll never listen to again. Oh, emusic and itunes, your lows are not as low, but your highs are not as high.

There were some greats this year though and I’m not going to feel bad about only having four of them:

Ys by Joanna Newsom
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case
Cast Away the Clouds by Rose Melberg
Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse

The Neko Case and Joanna Newsom records were more wonderful than I could’ve hoped, but you can read all about them elsewhere on the internets. We saw Rose Melberg open for Belle & Sebastien when they came to Vancouver. Her music was not suited to the cavernous Commodore Ballroom, but she was sweet so we bought her record. We’ve listened to that record consistently throughout the year and I can’t recommend it enough for dreamy afternoons when you need to tune out the world.

I heard about Clipse on the Sound Opinions podcast and since then it’s only left the car stereo on Christmas Day so that my sweetie could play that Sufjan Stevens box set. We downloaded that last year though, so by the time it came out and we bought it, I was sick of it. “O Come Emmanuel” is beautiful though and I wish I’d written “Put the Lights on the Tree.”

Now in terms of what I actually listened to this year, nobody could touch Of Montreal in playcount, especially “Satanic Panic in the Attic” and “The Sunlandic Twins.” Here’s a list of some of other things I liked this year that weren’t released in 2006:

Song: Black Cab by Jens Lekkman
Band that I finally got around to listening to: Of Montreal
Record I bought cause of a 2005 best of list: Das Mandolinenorchester by Cobra Killer & Kapajkos
Best mp3 I bought/classic (new to me): 13 Songs by Fugazi
Vinyl: Young MC: Stone Cold Rhymin’ & The Duke Plays Ellington

But Victor, you might ask, what was 2006 like for a young musician trying to make his way in this post-p2p file sharing musical landscape selling record downloads through an mp3 blog turned label? My first answer to that ran on a bit, and wasn’t nearly as profound as I’d hoped, so here’s the short answer:

I made a lot more friends than I made money, and that’s all right with me.

Victor is a London-born singer/songwriter who resides in Vancouver.

Sonic Youth “The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities” Review

Moments into “Fire Engine Dream,” an outtake from the Sonic Nurse sessions in 2003, Sonic Youth begins to deliver an almost encyclopedic, note for note, version of themselves; a noisy, brash Sonic Youth reminiscent to a version of Public Image Limited lacking the electronics and boasting heavier emphasis on crass audible devolution. Surprisingly are the similarities to Lydon’s former self through developing tracks such as the hazily electronic “Campfire” and the rolling “Loop Cat.” But it is with that first moment of the first song that Sonic Youth instantaneously reiterates why the term art punk means what it does in today’s musical landscape. Much of art punk, let alone punk, is what it is because of the band, and for the better part of eighty minutes the band displays why exactly that is.

Two songs and roughly fifteen minutes into the collection the listener is graced with the whimpering vocals of Kim Gordon on “Razor Blade,” a b-side to the “Bull in Heather” single. The short acoustic track is the lone oddity, if such an album from such a band were to have an oddity. It lasts just a minute and doesn’t screech, hum or reverberate, but rather fills an artistic void created by the band indifference with musical confines. It is with that kind of brilliant self examination that the album redeems itself as necessary and before long the band crawls back into its safety zone of noise, where it stays for the remainder of The Destroyed Room.

The capstone to the set is a twenty six minute version of “The Diamond Sea,” a track that solidifies any misconceptions one might have about the band in this stage of its career. After a year in which the group released its most celebrated success in recent memory, accompanying Rather Ripped with a strong tour, “The Diamond Sea” is, in a way, like listening to the ending credits to an epic film. Thurston Moore’s initial lyrics boast a defining statement to a career while divulging as little information as possible, “Time takes its crazy toll and how does your mirror grow.” If anyone were to suggest that the groups self image hasn’t solidified since its beginning they should be condemned a fool. Time has taken a toll on the band, and through the course of an obscene number of releases, a lapse into and out of mainstream popularity and a relationship unwavering, Sonic Youth and its listener stand the better for it.

Best of 2006: The Majestic Twelve’s Kenyata Sullivan

Here are four things I’m truly enthusiastic about, and perhaps they might not all have been created this year, but they were all new to me in ‘06. So, in no particular order:

1. FOUR VOLTS - “Triple Your Work Force”. There are tons of bands trying to inherit a forward-thinking mantle while building off the Pixies, the Buzzcocks, Gang Of Four, etc, but I think this is the only one I’ve heard that feels like a completely genuine pseudo-surf-explosivo-apocalypse. Fucking love it. Start with “Heartworm” (truly one of the great singles of the past few years, the cd sounds so much better than the MySpace, buy it), and work your way in.

2. JOSÈ GONZÀLEZ - “Stay In The Shade”. Hipsters, don’t be dissuaded by this guy being so damn visible. This guy is for real. Think Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, and if you’re fucking superhip, Arthur Russell’s late night 8-track recordings from when he came home from the bars half-drunk and barely half-alive. This is beautiful, private, patient, passionate music. Embrace it, it deserves it.

3. HERO PATTERN - “Don’t Even Miss Me”. One of the great modern rock songs of the last decade from one of the great New Jersey rock bands of the last decade. Hero Pattern are to New Jersey what The Suburbs were to Minneapolis twenty years ago, and I really hope that one day they get the shot they deserve.

4. KEITH JOHN ADAMS - “Pip”. Holy shit! Real songwriting, genuinely interesting instrumentation, fantastic arrangements, all of which make for a disc I can listen to over and over again, and still repeatedly smile like a grinning idiot. Very British, very enunciated, hell, even very Teardrop Explodes at times! A pulsating heartfelt recommendation from me, indeed.

Kenyata plays guitar and is the lead singer for the Wilmington, North Carolina based band The Majestic Twelve

2006 in Review: The Rise and Fallout of Jay-Z


It may or may not have started with Nas’ “Ether” back in 2001, but after both ended up together with Def Jam someone had to take the reigns in cracking down on Jay-Z and in 2006 Cam’Ron stood up ready to battle. Though the roots to both Cam’Ron and Dipset as a whole disputing with Jay-Z go back a ways it was in 2006 where Cam’Ron took the spotlight by releasing the well publicized dis track “You Got To Love It,” as well as the underground mix “Fuck Jay-Z.” The first track being an open call out that takes aim at everything from his business to his (then) girlfriend to his style with the second taking a deeper shot at his actual music and lyrical similarities with those that had come before him. In “Fuck Jay-Z” Cam’Ron literally cites examples of situations where Jay is biting rhymes and lyrics from the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, Big L, Rakim, Nas, Big Daddy Kane and 2Pac.

When Jay-Z announced his return to music in fall of 2006 with his album Kingdom Come it was immediately dismissed by critics though it took little time for fans to eat it up, giving the album platinum status in a matter of weeks. How fitting is it that the album’s lead single “Show Me What You Got” could however be another addition to the pile of songs compiled bu Cam’Ron which boast remarkable similarities to those of others? In this case the track straight up steals from another great duo, Public Enemy, and simply laces the bitten rhymes over an old Shaft loop. One has to wonder what Nas’ motivation was when recording with Jay-Z for his already acclaimed album Hip Hop Is Dead. Is hip hop dead, or just the motivation to push its limits? (oh, and by the way, Jay-Z wants to be President)

Remembering James Brown


I don’t believe any of us can recall the very first time we heard James Brown, but more than likely it was through some commercial project attempting to utilize “I Got You (I Feel Good)” or “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Part 1).” Chances are though, that if you’re a fan of the man’s music, you know when it first hit you, and for me it was while I was working in a restaurant sometime in 1999. The morning crew we had consisted of a five foot something (if that) Chinese prep cook, a three hundred pound opera singer, and a six foot five rapper. Which one of these people do you think introduced me to James Brown?

It would be the six foot five rapping chef who kept playing the Dead Presidents soundtrack over and over and over again which first truly introduced me to the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The soundtrack would eventually grow on me, introducing me to not only soul and funk, also helping me begin to explore James Brown’s catalog with a song that still, to this day, stands as not only my favorite James Brown track, but one of my all-time favorites: “The Payback.”

My sophomore year in university was spent at a community college as I tried to figure out what direction I should head in. The second semester was a complete enjoyment for me as I took half of my workload to concentrate on classes that I was just taking for fun. One of the classes was “Rock and Roll History.” I passed.

Throughout the class there were students who I felt increasingly negative vibes from as they began to understand that while the subject matter is an enjoyable one on the whole, they would have to explore music and the corresponding history which touched on unpleasant topics behind the music; it was after all, rock and roll.

During the discussion of the Detroit Race Riots the classroom only played the music of James Brown, and during those discussions there were two people who actually seemed to enjoy the music: the professor and myself. The song that was played most during the time was James’ “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” just one of the man’s 48 top ten singles.

All this considered, and I have only really been a fan of the man’s music for the better part of a decade — I can’t even imagine what impact he has had on those who have followed him throughout his entire career. James Brown was human and he fell, especially in his later years, but he continually attempted to use his celebrity to help those around him. Last week Brown participated in his annual holiday giveaway in Augusta, the city which he was raised in, the city that since last year has dawned a bronze statue of their patriarch.

I hope those who condemn Brown for his failures also look at what he has done for our culture as a whole. James Brown: Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, Minister of The New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Please Please Please, The Boss, the Godfather of Soul… you will be missed.

(This post was featured by The Boston Globe December 27, 2006.)

Best of 2006: The Sky Drops’ Monika Bullette

In 2006 The Sky Drops recorded and released our debut EP Clouds of People, toured the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, played several shows in London, and started preparing new songs for our next release for early 2007. I had less time than usual for seeking out new bands but I quite enjoyed the “don’t call it a come-backs” and new treasures I did find.

Caveat: I’ve read some year-end lists and up at the top are bands that I name-recognize but have only heard maybe 1/2 of a song. I can only pull from the smaller roster of albums that I have actually lived with this year - and go out to investigate this top feeders later. Discretionary funds are going towards funding The Sky Drops’ new EP, not album purchases!

I’m interested in lyrics. I give kudos to these writers for perfect use of words I doubt I’d ever place in one of my songs: The Black Angels “Iraq”; Beck “cellphone”; Morrissey “retroussé”; Beyonce “chinchilla”; Clipse “gobstoppers”; Arctic Monkeys “robot”; Amy Winehouse “rehab”; Justin Timberlake “shackles”; Regina Spektor “cleavage”; Lily Allen “al fresco”; The Flaming Lips “Donald Trump”; Nellie McKay “balderdash”, & Bob Dylan “Alicia Keyes”.

I played these [artist's] albums most this year: Wolfmother, Phoenix, The Raconteurs, Neko Case, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Darkel, Sonic Youth, Tom Waits, Licorice Roots. Best Soundtracks: Marie Antoinette, The US vs. John Lennon, Stranger Than Fiction. 

Monika provides vocals, drums for the Delaware based band The Sky Drops and has a solo project called Bullette.

Norah Jones: “Not Too Late”

Though it wont be released for another month, Norah Jones’ highly anticipated third studio album Not Too Late stands as something that could either identify her as a centerpiece of her generation, or demote her to a once triumphant musician now fading into the shadow of her celebrity. Having emerged as one of the most celebrated artists to find a niche between adult contemporary and mainstream successes in recent years Jones left the mainstream to follow various other projects after the release of her sophomore album Feels Like Home. The album, while a commercial success, failed to touch fans in the same way as her debut and despite its personal aspect, one has to feel that Jones herself strives for something greater. All this yet Jones is still a few years away from crossing the border into her thirties, a sign that no matter what, chances are that her best years, and songs, are ahead of her. Check out her web site to hear a preview of the album including a stream of Not Too Late’s first single “Thinking About You.”

Campamento Ñec Ñec “Alimana” Review

How is it that the band with one with the year’s best EP in disguise as a LP can be so unknown? Not even in sense that your borderline indie, borderline corporate music mag hasn’t written about them. Not in the sense that the once-underground, now far above sea level internet hype hasn’t touched them. Not even in the sense that Zach Braff hasn’t already tried signing them on for a role as musical accompaniment to one of his many new movies that, despite correlating undertones, most definitely have different storylines than Garden State. But rather in the sense that there is no web site, there is no MySpace and there are only a scattered handful of attempts across the internet to try and define the band’s sound. There is simply little about the Spanish noise-pop trio that is out there. What is known, almost immediately to the band’s listeners however, is that Campamento Ñec Ñec plays a unique reflection of noise rock based far deeper in pop than anything the Animal Collective is widely known for.

Though, when considering the Animal Collective, and last year’s Feels in particular, something becomes to greatly relevant about the band on a global scale. Case in point: what happens when your band creates an amazing album that explores the boundaries of modern music without overwhelming listeners with media overexposure? To much of the world that means listening to an album filled with unintelligible lyrics, those which are completely foreign to their ears. But they listen anyways because in some way, shape or form, the music makes sense.

And without suggesting that the album’s speed skat which defies translation is typical Spanish dialect, it is pretty safe to suggest that Alimana is essentially Southern Europe’s Feels to its English-speaking audience. It makes no sense, musically even, and the loveable album, which neglects to span ten minutes as a whole, blends together as a dream which can only be tolerated in the context of experimentalism. Hopefully one way or another Campamento Ñec Ñec will too cross borders and find a way to offer their brand of unique music on an international scale.

Best of 2006: The Upsidedown’s J-Sun Atoms

It’s been an interesting year because I expected our album to come out, but that’s what happens when you expect something. Thank the universe for showing us who’s the boss and slowing us down; something always comes along and turns us into something else. 2007 is going to be an exciting year for us, I feel like the album we are working on right now is a life’s work, something timeless that you can listen to proudly for a lifetime. For much of the year The Black Angels’ Passover was something that I listened to daily. Peter (Dandy Warhols) turned me on to Serena-Maneesh, he drove over the CD and dropped it off after they were on tour with them and I knew it was going to be special.

Some of the best live shows I saw this year were Dead Meadow, BRMC, the Dandy Warhols with the gathering of the geezers (drawing and painting and music together worked well), I picked quite a few northwest bands because they really were the soundtrack to our lives this year. Jeremy from The Village Green is making our album with us and listening to “Feeling the Fall” makes me excited about drums. I just heard a high violets remix for “Cool Green” that blew my head back, or my hair or whatever. One of my favorite songs that won’t be released until next year is The Sun The Sea’s song “Even Happier” (which you can check out here)… at any rate…Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind, Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne…

The Upsidedown 2006 Top Ten:

1. The Black Angels “Passover”

2. Serena-Maneesh “Serena-Maneesh”

3. The High Violets “To Where You Are”

4. The Dandy Warhols “Odditorium or Warlords of Mars”

5. The Village Green “Feeling the Fall”

6. The Strokes “First Impressions of Earth

7. Hypatia Lake “…and We Shall Call Him Joseph”

8. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”

9. Kings of Leon “Day Old Belgian Blues”

10. Muse “Black Holes and Revelations”

Honorable Mention:
Tom Waits “Orphans”
Thom Yorke “The Eraser”
Raconteurs “Broken Boy Soldiers”
Band of Horses “Everything All The Time”
Kasabian “Empire”

J-Sun is the vocalist and plays guitar for the Portland-based band The Upsidedown

My Morning Jacket “Okonokos: The Concert” DVD Review

The DVD begins and the world is transformed, a first person experience as a man with a mission, on an evening like no other, a socialites dream somewhere in a mansion in the deep South. An estate lost in the backwoods, one which you arrive to as your horse drawn buggy calmly smoothes its speed to a gentle stop. As you prance up the stairs that lead to the house’s entrance you are greeted by the doorman, who awakens as you dance towards him, generously opening the door for you, welcoming you to the evening in all its grandeur. Inside the gathering room you are greeted with a fancy of the elite surrounded by the finest of defeated animal pelts, hides and mounts. You begin to make your way from one side to the next, each side greeting you with less and less generous acceptance. As the frowns elevate each attendees nose to a point where you no longer feel the slightest bit welcome you notice a llama that has also joined the party.

The others don’t seem to take notice as you lead the llama out of the room, out of the house and towards the dreary swamp that surrounds much of the bordering woods. As you are drawn closer and closer, you hear bass thumping and the sound of a large crowd. The llama grunts as the two of you enter the bright light, the bright light of a concert in the woods, a concert being performed by My Morning Jacket. As the performance begins one is left to ponder, as a viewer of this odd introduction, whether its creators have either an abnormal level creativity or an uncanny supply of drugs. I don’t believe that it would be out of place to suggest that there is a little bit of truth to both of those questions.

“Wordless Chorus” opens the show with a tremendous feeling of presence that is cast from not simply the band but the entire showcase that is being presented, the set, the stage and the lighting, all provoking a sense of patient urgency from the crowd. All the while you, the mustachioed man in the top hat, still accompany the llama in the crowd, though your presence still makes little to no sense to anyone around you, but the music goes on.

Throughout Jim James and company wade through their lengthy catalogue, bouncing between obvious crowd favorites and the occasionally lost, oft-empty jams. Sometimes with saxophones, sometimes with raging Kentucky hair-jams, My Morning Jacket seems a little unsure as to which direction it looks to go though the crowd justly loves every second of it. Seasoned fans will love the visual accompaniment to the double disc audio set of the same name, but will find a few key discrepancies in the set list.

The man, top hat still intact, leads the llama out of the light, and back through the dark forest as the concert comes to a close. As the dusk settles they are mauled by a bear which kills the man and frightens the townspeople. Despite the music, the allure of the band’s unfashionable roots-based fans and the unique stage setting this still makes no sense. Be warned, this is Okonokos.

Best of 2006: Division Day’s Kevin Lenhart

I think it’s always a good year for music, whether or not you consider the albums that have been released that year to be good work. Music that we deem bad can still have a positive effect by pushing us toward something different, distinct from whatever it is we didn’t like about it. And of course, music that we deem amazing will inspire people as it always does to make beautiful music of their own. So yeah, I thought last year was great for music, though I wish I’d managed to hear more new stuff than I did. With regard to my list, I guess it’s a little far flung, but it all more or less falls under the rock umbrella. For each of these albums, I feel like each of the artists did an excellent job in fully realizing their vision of how they wanted their record to sound. That’s presumptuous of me - I have no idea what the writing/recording sessions were like for these records - but regardless of whatever the scenario behind these records actually is, these albums all communicate a purity of intention to me that I find irresistible and totally inspiring. They all do what they set out to do really, really well.

The top 10 (plus 1) best albums (that I listened to, but weren’t necessarily released) in ‘06:

1. TV on the Radio “Return to Cookie Mountain”
2. Mastodon “Blood Mountain”
3. Silversun Pickups “Carnavas”
4. The Mae Shi “Heartbeeps”
5. The Movies “American Oil”
6. Band of Horses “Everything All the Time”
7. Mew “And the Glass Handed Kites”
8. Liars “Drum’s Not Dead”
9. Joanna Newsom “Ys”
10. My Morning Jacket “Z”
11. Mission of Burma “The Obliterati”

*Special nod to Lavender Diamond’s “You Broke My Heart” and Midlake’s “Roscoe” for being pretty much the best songs of the year.

Kevin is the drummer for L.A. band Division Day

Favorite Mashups of 2006

#25) Arty Fufkin “Barrel of a Goo” [MP3]
(Beastie Boys vs. Sonic Youth)

Had you heard this song without any previous knowledge of the Beasties but “Sabotage” you’d have no other choice but to believe it to be a b-side. Likewise devoted Sonic Youth fans have to feel a sense of pride as the boot proves the band’s most successful material to have legs far beyond the interest of its critics.

#24) Totom “Get Down Only” [MP3]
(Nine Inch Nails vs. Kool and the Gang)

Developing a complete mash album is a tricky task at best. Somewhere between the über successful Grey Album and the hit and miss American Edit mix comes Totom’s With Boots, a strange mix revolving around Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 album With Teeth. While the mix compels itself towards a darker theme through mashes with the likes of Joy Division and David Bowie it is the mash with Kool and the Gang that offers the best and most complete contrast on the mix.

#23) Sam Flanagan “Witness The Curtains Closing” [MP3]
(Arctic Monkeys vs Roots Manuva)

Not simply finding itself the prominent track featured from the Arctic Monkeys Remixed project, Flanagan’s “Witness the Curtains Closing” found its own audience through a variety of under the radar fan sites. Despite mild critical acclaim (finding itself noted on Zoo Magazine’s ‘Top 10 New Tracks’) the song, determined to contradict the backlash facing one of the year’s most hyped bands, left its impact on fans and bootleggers alike.

#22) Bobby Martini “Big Time Dare” [MP3]
(Gorillaz vs Peter Gabriel)

Having the ability to create a deeply enjoyable song out of two songs that only appeal on a superficial level is what bootlegs are all about and “Big Time Dare” is one such song.

#21) DJ Maxentropy “Short Skirt London Bridge” [MP3]
(Fergie vs Cake)

My dad hates Fergie, and I can’t say that I don’t agree with his sentiments. But when fitted with a new pair of comfortable musical clothes however she becomes tolerable. Well, mildly tolerable… “Short Skirt London Bridge” reminds you why you liked Cake in the first place…even if that means that you have to listen to Fergie in the process.

#20) DJ Nicky T “Shaggy Fat Boy” [MP3]
(Shaggy vs. Fatboy Slim)

“Say it wasn’t you.” Fatboy Slim’s music is essentially a shoo-in for laying the backbone to any successful mash-up. With that being said, mixing in a somehow-lovable story of infidelity makes more sense than others, allowing “Praise You” to act as an additional voice in the story rather than simply musical accompaniment.

#19) dj BC “Beneath Dumaine Street” [MP3]
(Wu Orleans)

How rare is it to create a relevant mash-up, let alone an entire album’s worth? dj BC’s Wu-Orleans grasped the most attention of the year as its timely release fueled pride in The Big Easy with a shot of hip hop royalty. “Beneath Dumaine Street” is simply a drop in what the mix has to offer.

#18) DJ not-I “Feel All Apologies” [MP3]
(Blackalicious vs Nirvana)

Literally hundreds of mashes attempt to interject some freshness into Nirvana however most find themselves far too busy. The oversimplified loop of “I Feel All Apologies” allows the mash an unglamorous headliner to shine over top it, allowing both acts to flourish. Neither too much nor too little Nirvana, but just enough to make you feel that way.

#17) Synchronoize “Sweet Times of Mine” [MP3]
(Foo Fighters vs Guns N’ Roses)

When I first heard how easily these two songs fell into each other it blew my mind. Though not the finest example of a mash-up, it takes two songs that the majority of modern rock fans are aware of and creates something refreshing out of them. And at this point, anything that includes both Axl and the words refreshing should be given your attention.

#16) DJ BC “They Might Be Starting” [MP3]
(They Might Be Giants vs. Will Smith vs. Pink)

Remember when you first heard The Fresh Prince theme song and felt it slightly edgy, all the while you still realized that it was on NBC. This song is kind of like that, successfully reminding you that however innocent his words might be, Will Smith can still be at least a little bit entertaining.

#15a) Go Home Productions “Oasis Are Gaye (Sexual Wonderwall)” [MP3]
(Oasis vs. Marvin Gaye)
#15b) Go Home Productions “Sexual High” [MP3]
(Marvin Gaye vs Radiohead)

2005 proved The White Stripes to be one of the most overmashed groups, this year found Marvin Gaye in quite the same position. But along the way Mark Vidler found not just one, but two ways to give Gaye mashes a new energy. Brit pop was apparently all it took, who knew? If you have to choose, though, I suggest the Radiohead mash.

#14) Irn Mnky “Shake Lylas Rump” [MP3]
(Oasis vs Beastie Boys)

One of the greatest things about making vocal only tracks available to fans for the purposes of mixing is the freedom fans have when tinkering with the songs. Likewise, when you find the perfect few chords and figure out a way to make things work just right, nothing is better.

#13) A plus D “Beethoven’s Fifth Gold Digger” [MP3]
(Kanye West vs. Beethoven vs. Walter Murphy)

One of the most acclaimed duos in all of bootlegging, DJs Adrian Roberts and The Mysterious D, find a way to create one of the year’s best mashes by being one of the first to supremely utilize classical music. Oh, and by helping people forget how ridiculous Kanye West became this past year doesn’t hurt either.

#12) CCC “3 MCs and 4 Mods” [MP3]
(The Who vs Beastie Boys)

Last year proved Beastie/The Who mashes to be a terrific blend pace and rhythm. And like all Beastie mixes, one of the greatest upsides to it is that, well, the Beasties are in it.

#11) DJ BC “Free ADIDAS” [MP3]
(Run DMC vs. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)

This is ridiculous. In a similar manner to that of the Foo Fighters/Guns N’ Roses mash, “Free A.D.I.D.A.S.” sounds like it was always meant to be a single from the beginning. While Petty hasn’t ever really publicly accepted hip hop the way that Aerosmith did in the 1980′s, the song makes you wonder what might’ve been if he had.

#10) Arty Fufkin “Crazy Logic” [MP3]
(Supertramp vs. Gnarls Barkley)

“Crazy Logic” doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel but rather serves as a great way to listen to the best of both Supertramp and Gnarls Barkley after hearing “Crazy” for the two hundredth time this year.

#9) Irn Mnky “J.C.R.E.A.M (Johnny Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” [MP3]
(Johnny Cash vs Wu-Tang Clan)

Not simply diving into uncharted waters with the Wu-Tang/Johnny Cash mix, but doing so successfully proves Irn Mnky to be one of the most unique mashers of the year. And come on, the song’s name alone is well worth the price of admission.

#8) Menegaux “Going Back To Dani” [MP3]
(Notorious B.I.G. vs Red Hot Chili Peppers)

A lot of song’s attempt to utilize Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics over a well known rock song but for some reason “Going Back To Dani” works the best. Even if the song might not really be the Chili’s finest work, it still works. Or is it even a Chili Peppers song at all?
Also: Dan Gaffney Show – Tom Petty vs Red Hot Chili Peppers [MP3]

#7) Go Home Productions “Flaming Mary Can (Out) Run Prince” [MP3]
(The Flaming Lips vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Can vs. Run DMC vs. Prince)

Though the song as a whole isn’t better than any of its parts, it is the year’s best 3+ artist mashes, showing that it is in fact possible to hold my attention for more than five minutes. If only my childhood psychologist could see me now.

#6) DJ Erb “Regulate Dust in the Wind” [MP3]
(Kansas vs Warren G)

When first listening to this song you may not understand why I think so highly of it. Though I now cannot listen to “Dust in the Wind” without thinking of Old School, I now cannot listen to Warren G without thinking of Yacht Rock. It’s just so smooth! (find out what I’m talking about – click here)

#5) DJ Riko “For Those About to Clown” [MP3]
(Angus Young vs. Smokey Robinson vs. John Bonham)

Ever get the feeling that you can’t express your love for Smokey Robinson because your metal friends will more than likely kick your ass? Fear no more my friend, allow DJ Riko to introduce you to the solution, “For Those About to Clown.”

#4) DJ BC “Da Sound of Da Irish Police Band” [MP3]
(KRS-One)

The song itself isn’t overly complex, but the vision to mash KRS-One’s well versed rhymes over the fiddle (thanks Jon) is. And it’s awesome!

#3) A plus D “Nelly Furtado’s Crazy” [MP3]
(Nelly Furtado vs Gnarls Barkley)

Again taking a “duh” idea and creating something amazing out of it A plus D provide a look into celebrity karaoke by mashing one of the many hundred covers of “Crazy” with “Crazy” itself. The first listen proves to be a moment where you can’t believe that you didn’t already think of it…or for that matter, why anyone else didn’t think of it.

#2) Go Home Productions “Alive and Nellified” [MP3]
(Nelly vs Mooney Suzuki)

If rap-rock were ever to rear its ugly face ’round these parts again I would only dream that it take the face of Vidler’s “Alive and Nellified.” Utilizing both an overrated rapper and an underrated garage band proves nothing less than mind-blowing with this track.

#1) Flosstradamus “Overnight Star” [MP3]
(Twista vs Sigur Rós)

Chicago’s Flosstradamus join many in that they simply dabble in bootlegging while devoting the bulk of their time to DJing, but the creative input that went into this Icelandic speed-flow would suggest that the duo might want to spend a little more time mashing.

PJ Harvey "Peel Sessions 1991-2004" Review

It will take Rid of Me another half decade before it settles in with a new audience, the children of those who it was first adopted by. Harvey’s music was timely and appropriate considering her surroundings and the ears it originally fell upon, but it will prove itself instead timeless. A period where there was such a distinct changing of the musical guard was ushered in at a time when Harvey first bloomed, and though her music stood outside grunge’s confines she compelled music fans to believe that there was something far deeper beneath rock’s plaid surface. And yet, with the album’s 1993 release, at a time when many fans first discovered her, they were still years behind John Peel.

Harvey’s first appearance for the BBC came on Peel’s show during the fall of 1991, in which she played four songs, “Oh My Lover,” “Victory,” “Sheela-Na-Gig” and “Water;” all of which are present on Harvey’s, if you will, Best of the Peel Show album. It was in this performance in which the strongly favored “Sheela…” begins to explains Harvey’s musical and lyrical direction to new ears, a direction which she would follow through her nine total appearances on Peel’s show. The song’s grit without grunge basis is followed by 1993’s performance of “Naked Cousin,” and 1996’s “Losing Ground” in specific; two songs which apparently had no place on proper albums yet defined her sound so genuinely.

The album’s liner notes are scarce at best, with a brief statement written by Harvey commemorating her relationship with Peel, yet it proves to prove her humanity and love, traits which are absurdly scattered despite her outspokenness. “John’s opinion mattered to me. More than I would ever care to admit. For fear of embarrassment on both sides, but I sought his approval always. It mattered.” With her emotion so clear, she continues, “Every Peel session I did, I did, FOR HIM.”

For those who have ever lost a friend, let alone one who honestly made sense to you, it hurts. But to lose a friend whose opinion truly mattered to you is something akin to losing a part of your self opinion, a segment of your self-esteem, a branch of who you are. But Harvey’s loss was different, it was all those things felt through the loving heart of a student, one that never scoffed criticism but internalized every moment of it. And with each performance she shared with him their mutual admiration grew, proving her final words in her letter to him so completely honest, “I chose these songs, in his memory. A way of saying Thank You. Once more, Thank You John.”

It is this emotion; this pageantry of what so many lack, and even more never knew existed that makes Harvey’s music powerful. It characterizes relationships universal with the release of her time shared with her friend she capitalizes not on finances but on sharing their love for each other and for music. And never for one second did John Peel suggest that he thought otherwise.

The Fire Now Teases: Jake La Botz

Something remarkable happens when you listen to music that you’re jealous of. Not jealous in the sense that you’re jealous of the musician or his struggles and accomplishments. Not in the sense that you wish you could bend a note like them, or whisper a truth the way they do. But it’s a complete feeling that overcomes you, without forcing a dirty convoluted afterthought. Jake La Botz plays and you feel like you have found music, something remarkable, and something to openly be jealous of.

At times he can roll a Dr. John growl where one would expect a gritty country slur, at times his music pushes the limits of lost Delta greats, and at times he makes you reconsider whether or not he could be Hank III’s running mate. But sometimes it’s the stories behind the musician that spark jealousy’s interest. Recently completing a twenty three date tattoo parlor only tour has its effects on a musician, typically being mental and physical wear which come from the toils the road has to give. But in La Botz’s case, in addition to the road’s pains, the effects included twenty three tattoos. The fire now teases.

Something remarkable happens when you watch a movie that makes you jealous; and most of the time that jealousy stems from an actor’s capabilities to confine your mind into believing that the screen’s deception is reality. Steve Buscemi is one such actor.

“Jake is the modern day Hank Williams.” – Steve Buscemi.

Ben Kweller Interview

Finding the most critical acclaim from his most recent self titled album, singer/songwriter Ben Kweller now looks to take a rest from touring before continuing the international leg of his endeavors next year. While latest album interrupts his past writing process by completing a shift towards a fuller, complete musician, he still seems able and almost curiously willing to try and find something that would still startle his most dearest of fans. In this interview Kweller discusses his recent video accompaniments to his album, who he feels to be the most well rounded living multi-instrumentalist and sharing songs at Brian Wilson’s house.

What was the inspiration for your One Minute Pop Song series?

Ben Kweller: We had a ton of footage of me working in the studio. I didn’t want to make a DVD with it but I wanted my fans to see some of the footage so I came up with the idea of a TV show. YouTube was really taking off at that point so I thought it would be a fun experiment to use that as the channel. It was very fun!

In one of the episodes you mentioned that your dad was the person who introduced you to the drums. When did you first begin to take interest in a wider variety of instruments?

Ben Kweller: Soon after I learned the drums someone showed me heart and soul on the piano. I immediately wrote 5 songs with those 4 chords. I was about 8 I guess…when my hands were big enough, at 10, my dad showed me “E” and “A” on the guitar. I wrote a song with the 3 chords and never looked back. I took real lessons on guitar and piano but dropped out due to my lack of interest in learning other people’s music. Now of course I regret that! But I did get a head start at writing my own music which has probably helped me more than the classics I would’ve learned. One day ill go back and restudy all that again.

Sort of jokingly, you rated your ability to play a variety of instruments on a scale out of 10 during the One Minute Pop Song series. Who are some of the best living multi-instrumentalists in your opinion?

Ben Kweller: Best living multi-instrumentalists are: Jon Brion, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, John Kent, Prince, Nils Lofgren, Tony Scalzo and Mike Stroud.

You’ve worked with a ton of musicians, many of which can play a variety of instruments. Following your self-ranking you note that it’s not really who has the most technical skills that make for the best musician, but rather who is the best at interpreting the music. How do you interpret the music?

Ben Kweller: I try to figure out what I’m feeling by the music, find the emotions that are happening and make the lyrics true and direct, not sugar coated. It’s actually a very hard thing to explain now that I’ve tried to!

Both good and bad, my father has seemingly always has a story to tell and yours’ about your road manager Kitt was a great one. The situation that allowed his father to befriend Neil Young is remarkable. Is there a situation in the not so distant past has allowed you to meet or get to know someone you idolized?

Ben Kweller: When I was 15 I was invited to spend the day with Brian Wilson at his house. His best friend Andy, wanted to sign my band Radish so we hung out with him and Brian at Brian’s house. I played songs on my guitar for Brian and he played some for me on the piano. It was magical and I don’t really talk about it too much.

If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Ben Kweller: If we knew it was my final-final show, it would feel like a funeral; sad about the end but a celebration of life as well. Instead of having my idols, I would have my most important people by my side as well as some great artists to make the show good! My father, my mother, Lizzy, my son Dorian, Mason Jennings, Conor Oberst, Mike Stroud, Fred Eltringham, Roger Greenawalt, Julian Casablancas and Adam Green.

Katt Williams “The Pimp Chronicles: Part 1″ DVD Review

Through his smoke riddled introduction Snoop Dogg accepts a new role, that of an advisor to young Katt Williams. Through a progressively nonsensical speech Snoop encourages Katt to live up to the greats that have come before him, following the lines of “telling it like it is and not like it was,” and reminds Williams that in doing so he too will find great success. “I’m gonna go up to the stars, and I want you to meet me there;” Snoop concludes an introduction fit for one of comedy’s boldest young voices, an introduction fit for Katt Williams. Through the filmed-for-HBO performance Williams generates critically essential criticisms of life’s short-comings, the war in Iraq and the falsities of Hollywood glamour. But don’t worry, it’s not all straight, he still finds time to deliver a few jokes about drugs and DMX.

Before recently establishing himself as the first host of the BET Hip Hop Awards, Williams made it clear through this performance that he is no joke, he is all game. Despite cracking jokes with the likes of Lil’ Jon and co-Dipset member Cam’Ron throughout the show, Williams keeps a clear mind to that which he holds important, continually returning to a statement he holds dear “enjoy your life.” Even through the bills and the daily battles everyone faces, even after realizing how hard life is and how true people aren’t, you’ve got to enjoy life. And seconds into his routine it’s easy to figure out that Williams does just that.

In one of the defining statements of his performance Williams attempts to define the war in Iraq and why people are forced to plead apathy. He talks about how the government sugarcoats press releases, announcing the murder and killing of Iraqi civilians as the killing of insurgents. No one can identify with that, he continues “I don’t know no insurgents I don’t even have an insurgents friend.” But when disguised within his act his statements don’t come off as harsh or ingenuous. Williams is from middle America, he’s from Ohio, and through illustrations and jokes such as this he introduces his thoughts through relevant illustrations allowing people to grasp a deeper sense of his subject while not forgetting the absurdity of the whole thing.

The government is a bunch of pimps. If you’ve been selling weed since 1994 and you haven’t moved up to cocaine by 2006 - you are doing something wrong. Michael Jackson: if someone says you smoke crack for twenty years, chances are you smoke crack; stop playing with kids. Everything that Williams touches on showcases his grasp for current Americana, that being something that might only exist in idea. At his core Williams praises diversity and equalization, increased freedoms and a decrease in closed minds. But above all else, by the end of his routine, you too are reminded of the true importance of enjoying your life. Pimp.

Roger O’Donnell “The Truth in Me” Review

“It seems the bigger the band the more removed you are from the actual music.” As such Roger O’Donnell’s appropriately titled album The Truth in Me is what some might consider a realization of roots for an artist who has upheld quality and generated celebrity with all of the bands he has worked with in the past twenty years. There is no additional substance that would allow The Truth in Mea shiny exterior opposed to its jagged experimentalist shell, but the final product is the heart of a musician who had seemingly lost hope.

With the album O’Donnell takes a single instrument, a Moog Voyager, one which has been ineffective in acquiring general acceptance by popular electronic, rock and pop music, and has redefined not simply the instrument’s capabilities but his own. O’Donnell expands on the album, explaining it as something not simply derivative of his influences but of his inner emotions, “Consciously un-compromised or commercial, it’s a mainly instrumental journey through my musical influences and where I am. I was also inspired by Bjork’s use of a single instrument, the voice, on her record Medulla…Finally, music that I am satisfied with and that satisfies me, The Truth In Me says what I have been trying to say for a long time.”

It would be hard to define any song as a peak in the album, just as it would be hard to define the shape which the music takes. Throughout there are hints of up-tempo ambient and Asian popgaze, even hinting at fully developed vocal meshing with the assistance of Erin Lang, who contributes to three of the album’s tracks. The beauty can be found not on surface alone, but in the depth that multiple spins gives the listener. To analyze a sound or song is one thing, but to try and breathe in an entire album which is so smooth and well rounded it becomes a catastrophic deed to attempt to figure out the sound’s source and inspiration.

The Truth in Me is not a typical album, nor is the concept typical, nor the musician behind it. The album is a success in shifting O’Donnell’s scope and direction away from his historic sound, if he were to have even had one, and towards dangerous territory. O’Donnell has survived the journey into experimentalism and fared the hardships that come with channeling a source deep inside oneself, a feet few musicians get the opportunity to attempt; a feet which even fewer succeed at.

Cacoy “Human is Music” Review

Time is a remarkable thing. Let’s say that you’re one of the many many millions of people who choose to tie their shoes each day, how long does that take? And to get to work? And how long does it take you to complete any number of other tasks throughout the day? Let’s say, continuing with the hypotheticals here, that you are a musician and you choose to record an albums worth of material. How long would that take? For some it may take a week, some years, but in general it takes a lot of preparation and a whole lot of time. The question that follows is, how long does it take people to pay attention to your music and how much of their time are they then willing to spend? In the case of the Japanese group Cacoy it has taken quite a bit of time for their music to be heard in the American market (outside of a very small, very knowledgeable audience). Human is Musicwas recorded and released some three years ago, not long after Cacoy had formed, coming as a union of celebrated Japanese musicians DJ Klock, Saya and Takashi Ueno.

Space and distance, too, are remarkable things. Many wonder what life is like half way around the world. Would daily life be better? What would you do? Who would surround you? Though in some ways there are likenesses and genuine attractions of the same regard between people on both sides of the earth life is strange and it takes time for people and places to adjust to one another. Human is Music is odd in that it doesn’t redefine the barriers to entry of any particular genre, but rather mirrors a global influence and in doing so hits its mark. Tracks such as “Mural Music” confront American urban jazz with a reflection of Tokyo modernism, suggesting that it isn’t necessarily best to be the first performing a style but rather that grace can come from adaptation and manipulation of the norm. Such is the beauty of the album; it reflects what was happening on the verge of music in Japan in 2003, but finds relevance with its mainstream release in 2006. What was true about its songs then is true now. The same goes for what was beautiful and entertaining about the songs. Time is a remarkable thing; it is precious and is worth more than any of us can afford. Sometimes time is wasted and sometimes time wastes us, but for Human is Machine, time has simply proven its worth.

LCD Soundsystem “45:33 Nike+ Original Run” Review

DFA President and LCD Soundsystem patriarch James Murphy laces up his shoes and takes to the track as he follows the pace set by The Crystal Method for the second recording in Nike+ Original Run series. For those unfamiliar with the series, the music is made for running, that’s it; no dramatic inspiration, just one mission: make music that accommodates the runner. And as a runner himself, Murphy has done well.

As the forty-some-odd-minute release flows by it becomes unique in that it completely melds together as one solid sound, staying away from the fault of The Method’s take which distinctly swerved in and out of sound lanes attacking its listener at times with mood shifting tempos and samples. Initially beginning the mix with a casual DFA hand smack Murphy takes roughly four and a half minutes before breaking out transparent gospel and proving his mix to be an adventure in itself.

Mixing in an ode to electronic forefathers The Chemical Brothers at around the ten and a half minute mark adds a bit of raver chick swagger to the mix, something that is definitely good in small doses. Then it hits - the realization that 45:33 isn’t simply music formulated to match a runner’s rhythm, it’s something more, but you mustn’t think, you must run. As the twenty minute mark approaches you realize your head has been unknowingly bobbing from side to side as the tracks front cowbell as a weapon, combating the overwhelming techno siege which too is eventually defeated as trumpets bombard and take over a disco-heavy vocal loop.

There are no breaks, there are no individual tracks and there are no high or lows. As the last two minutes of calming ambiance attest to, 45:33 is one of the most complete pieces of electronic music that has been created in a long time, capturing any number of genres and helping influence the listener/runner into redefining what it is that they like about music. And all under the Nike label? The same company that is endlessly accused of global bullying and misguided corporate ethics? It’s a crazy world and it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong, but sometimes all you can do is run; at least this way you have a proper soundtrack.

Primus “Blame it on the Fish” DVD Review

Speaking from the year 2063, an elderly Les Claypool explains his life throughout the course of Blame it on the Fish. After detailing the origins of his name he recalls “I’m best known for playing with the band Primus. Primus was once a very popular group in sort of the underground cult scene – that’s who I am.” In a flash an old thought is brought back into the forefront, that being, how can a band that sells out tours, has played South Park, and expanded the boundaries of MTV be underground? Cult, maybe, but underground, not really.

Remember how in High Fidelity, Rob, Dick and Barry would compete in a game of coming up with the best top five…top five songs about death, top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in the ’80s and ’90s, top…well you get the picture. Primus is in my all-time top five favorite bands. With that, it’s hard not to see the band as mainstream because for the past decade the band’s music has been vital to me. Maybe they are underground, though, who can say, really…

Blame it on the Fish isn’t a concert piece; nor is it a deeper biographical look into what inspires the band to continue to make music in a way that no other has ever done. As far a concert piece is really considered, Primus’ 2004 live DVD Hallucino-Genetics covers any craving for polished live footage. And through sound bytes over the course of the band’s career fans have had the opportunity to begin to understand why some of the world’s most talented musicians choose to make some of the world’s most uncommercial music. And as such, the short clips of the band performing warped around found art and brief documentation of the band’s tour for “Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People” should suffice any fan in a way that another concert film would not.

There are moments that help the lost fan rediscover the band though, including Claypool’s on stage grace and ease with the microphone, specifically his introduction to “De Anza Jig,” in which he captures the audience’s capacity before heckling a heckler and slapping out a song the band hadn’t played live for roughly eight years.

If there were to be a downfall of the DVD, it would be that it simply teases songs and plays to the attention of only its long-time fan. For those who haven’t followed the band as close as Blame it on the Fish requires, one should most definitely take the time to devour Hallucino-Genetics as it gives a definite escape into not only what the band has become but what has made it honestly relevant for over two decades. But for those who have followed the band, it comes as a reassurement that we were right all along; Primus doesn’t suck.

A Striking Realization: The Bird and the Bee

Inara George and Greg Kurstin, the duo that comprises The Bird and the Bee, did not know one another five years ago, and it was mere business that brought them together in the first place. Kurstin was to produce George’s 2005 album All Rise, and it was in doing so that the two met and began to form the relationship that has now given us The Bird and the Bee. “Fucking Boyfriend,” a song in which its shocking title is far less distracting than the electronic influenced take on an electric organ ode to a relationship which consumes all. Its beauty and simplicity are found in the low key harmonies that suggest a relationship should be more, not less; a theme that surprises in an age still influenced by Alanis Morissette’s and Fiona Apple’s.

Kurstin, a highly acclaimed pianist, provides a sultry organ backing that allows for George to overcome the listener with her sugar coated vocals. Defining her as such is far from fair, however, as tracks such as “I’m a Broken Heart” teeter close to that of Beth Gibbons – striking Portishead fans with the realization that while anticipation grows for an album that may or may not ever come, there are those who are able to attempt to take the group’s place.

Kentucky Slang & Detroit Grit: Leopold and his Fiction

There’s something odd about the air when Leopold and his Fiction occupies its space, it’s fresh but still smells like something that’s been sitting on your daddy’s record shelf in an uncovered beat up slip cover. The band’s songs are a strange brew of Kentucky slang mixed with Detroit grit, at times sounding like a sober Perry Ferrell, all the while attempting to find balance between pop and bottleneck. The duo is comprised of drummer and Berkeley graduate student Ben Cook, and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Toccalino, both of whom bring their hometown characteristics to the collective.

“She Ain’t Got Time” successfully sets the band’s pace at a high level, one which it primarily stays away from; though in doing so the song relates itself to something familiar to Toccalino’s Detroit home and the band’s which have risen from the city in the past decade. “Go On and Have My Way” connects in a manner specifically associated with a bluesier rock musician along the lines of Robert Randolph. Together the duo provides a fairly accurate depiction of where modern rock might be headed; second generation Strokes fans desperately seeking the importance of .38 Special; which isn’t really a bad place to be.

Deftones “Saturday Night Wrist” Review

Inching the band closer to a sound that it began realizing with 2000’s White Pony, the Deftones return after a three year hiatus with the dramatic Saturday Night Wrist; an album that not only characterizes the band’s direction but displays also what has made it vital since it first released Adrenaline in 1995. Shifting from a purely metal fan base to that of the popularity driven nü-metal, to that of a distinctly mainstream rock fan isn’t something that a typical band has historically had to deal with, let alone overcome. And as the band closes in on a twenty years together it becomes blatantly apparent that the Deftones have done something that won’t soon be forgotten by releasing Saturday Night Wrist.

The longevity of bands’ careers often finds itself dwindling as its individual members seek additional sources for feedback and creative rejuvenation allowing their once mighty symbol to fade into history. With White Pony the Deftones reached a definitive apex and looked as though it too was being lured in by the history’s negative spirits. Though not the band’s highest charting album, though possibly its most well rounded, White Pony represented something more, a mainstream acceptance that hadn’t been fulfilled at even the highest peak in nü-metal. The album’s singles “Change,” and “Back to School” distanced the band from metal, in any sense of the genre, and helped formulate the band as that of a modern rock band instead of a modern metal band.

With its follow-up, 2003’s Deftones, there was another shift, but not to something further musically, but rather a shift in its fan base. The album reached number two on the charts, the band’s highest position, but failed to encourage growth amongst its fan base with the album’s grittingly hard tracks and advanced synth dynamics. The longevity of bands’ careers often finds itself dwindling as its individual members seek additional sources of creative rejuvenation, and following the release of Deftones Chino Moreno escaped into his 2005 nouveaux trip hop production Team Sleep, Chi Ching continued to devote time towards his activism and poetry and Abe Cunningham and Stephen Carpenter continued working with their side-projects (Phallucy and Kush, respectively). Though the Deftones didn’t look to be finished, the band it was most certainly leaning towards those lines.

Saturday Night Wrist does a number of things right at what many consider to be the exact breaking point of the band. Tracks such as “Xerces” and “Mein” featuring System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian keep the White Pony era in the back of the listener’s mind before Wrist pounds “Rats!Rats!Rats!” with Adrenaline like vigor. But once again those outside sources that seem to have killed so many greats are what allow the band to utilize its own uniqueness. Ambient faux-poetry is everywhere and looming moments of repetition are swallowed by typical Deftones command, and in a time when popularity may be at a lull, the band finds its craft at a high.

That being said, Wrist finds itself at times the victim of the band’s history. Multiples times throughout it seems to be catering to its fan circa 1997 and at times it fails at capturing its ever-available power with near-hit performances. It’s hard to allegorize the Deftones with any other bands, past or present, as they have succeeded in a career which now looks to be far from complete and have done so with continual media scrutiny and the previously mentioned shifting fan base. Saturday Night Wrist, while not nearly as strong as some previous efforts, looks to be a balance for its members – allowing each to fulfill their respective artistic paths through a collective voice. More importantly though, it shows that history will not prevail in limiting the bands output by tearing it apart, but rather shall succeed in depicting the Deftones as one of the premier rock bands of this or any generation.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead “So Divided” Review

Was it only last year when the boys in Trail of Dead released the critically snubbed Worlds Apart? An album that startled with waves of both brilliance and drudged self-mockery? Since the album’s release fans wondered where their Texas sized heroes had gone and if there would ever be a sincere conclusion to Source Tags & Codes. Fans also wondered when they would again have the opportunity to challenge the band’s increasingly evident limits all the while hoping that they would again be overcome with Trail of Dead’s remote vigor and dramatics. With So Divided the opportunity arises and again the band’s listener is approached with a quandary, to approach the new material believing it to be washed up before ever really given a chance, or rather to listen with open ears. Much of the listener’s direction depends on their personal history with the band, and, as the situation lends itself, history from my point of view begins with a television show by the name of Farm Club.

It was a weekly musical showcase, where bands played before a live studio audience, blossoming at a time when nü-metal was flourishing and rap, not hip hop, had infiltrated even the most outlying Midwestern suburbs. Acts such Primus were standouts and blooming bands such as At the Drive-In were not simply given air-time but the show’s prime slot. One band landed miles ahead of the rest in terms of showmanship and musical intensity however, that being …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Introduced with a video montage that visually depicted its narration, playing up to the bands excesses. Excessive amounts of damaged equipment at the end of each show. Excessive amounts of blood and sweat leached from the band’s members during their performances. But most importantly, the excessive amount of energy showcased on stage, something that was unreal at the time when considering the groups peers to be by-products of the UKs frustratingly calm patriarchs. The introduction slowly gave way to a performance that proved everything once said about them to be correct.

It is reasons such as these that anything released cannot live up to expectation. This becomes more evident as the budgets become wider and the band’s fan base becomes fatigued by anticipation.

It’s not that So Divided is a poor album, it’s as strong at moments as Worlds Apart, but it sounds like what listeners have come to expect. It makes sense for the band to approach pop songs when they’ve attempted to slice through harder emotions for years. It makes sense to give (what is essentially So Divided’s opener) “Stand in Silence” a keen riff that serving as the album’s arena rock moment. So Divided makes perfect sense, precisely its self-damaging downfall. At times it takes unconventional sound, such as the opening percussions of “Wasted State of Mind” and melds it with rock modernism; but in doing so the band stays safe, not pursuing music that serves itself or its listener. Layered pop moans and anti-dramatic ballads are fine and would be reconsidered as such under the context of a band lacking historical flashes of brilliance, but with Trail of Dead it’s hard to forget that there was once so much more. Not to say that re-releasing Source Tags & Codes would fulfill anything either, but it might be a step in the right direction.

Still Got Licks? The Search for Modern Relevance Amongst Yesterday’s Artists

Rock music as we know it is relatively young compared to the distinct genres that classify any number of nation around the world. Even compared to that of basic American jazz and blues it finds itself a younger sibling, stemming from a later seed, which finds itself further down the musical food chain. It’s humorous to hear those who say that rock ‘n roll is dead because at this point in time rock music is so heavily fused with all modern genres that it cannot bear to pass. Its middle aged sibling classic rock, on the other hand, has seen better days, leaving its listener to question the worth of its artist’s increasingly inconsistent live performances and recordings.

In a strange case of events the past year has proven a well endowed market of musicians that chose to defy modern trend and attempted to reconcile their history through the release of fresh material. For some it came as a shocking return to the spotlight after decades of soul searching and for others it was simply another year with another recording. With this list we’ve attempted to analyze eleven of the highest profile releases from a select group of musician who have aged past what some might consider their prime, that being the classic rock artist.

11) Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose

Following litigation over the use of the Bat out of Hell trademark between Meat Loaf and longtime collaborator Jim Steinman the final installment of the Bat trilogy found itself released to immediate critical dismissal this year. Steinman, who wrote and produced the tracks on the first two Bat out of Hell albums, finds remnants from other projects he had written contributed to (including a Batman musical which didn’t fully materialize and the previously mentioned “It’s All Coming Back to me Now”) popping up amongst the rest of the Desmond Child-produced confusion throughout The Monster is Loose.

One of the stimulating thoughts that surrounds the album is that of “what if…?” What if the Child-influence on the grossly overdramatic nü-metal “The Monster is Loose” and “If It Ain’t Broke Break It” weren’t on the album? (It might be tolerable as opposed to sounding like Zach Wylde playing at his worst) What if Steinman chosen to contribute to the album, penning even the most under-developed throwbacks to the dimmest of original Bat songs? (The album might hold a candle to the duo’s longstanding legacy instead of reminding many of why Meat Loaf is no longer relevant) And more importantly, what would have happened if Meat hadn’t accepted the role of Robert Paulson in 1999’s Fight Club? (We would probably of had to complain about how blatantly mediocre the majority of the third installment in the cherished Bat out of Hell series was about 6 years earlier)

10) Peter Frampton Fingerprints

Frampton’s return to A&M after leaving the label in 1982 marks somewhat of a homecoming for him as he spent his entire solo career, until that point, with the company. The instrumental album comes as something that questions the last two decades of Frampton’s work as it is the literal peak of where Frampton explains he has wanted to be for years, “the album I’ve been waiting my entire life to make.” With that, his decision to play with the laundry list of celebrity musician that he has met through his years helps in that is adds a level of depth to Frampton’s glossy guitar exterior. In addition to the previously mentioned collaborators are The Shadows’ Hank Marvin and Brian Bennett and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron among others, who all lend their historical sounds to Frampton’s modern interpretation.

On the surface tracks such as the Soundgarden cover “Black Hole Sun” raise the level of craftsmanship of the entire album, with Frampton acting as vocalist by means of lead guitar with both McCready and Cameron by his side. However the deeper one dives into the album, after peeling away its colorful layers, the more one finds who is really at the heart of Fingerprints. Frampton, the man, has been playing guitar for almost fifty years, and in doing so has not only had the means to acquire a broad repertoire, but a taste for it. Frampton, the idol, however still lives within the man. Now more than ever does it feel as though he is attempting to find balance between his Humble Pie days and his Comes Alive days, but all the while it appears as though there is still a hope of retrieving a greater level of stardom. Not something easily done, and not something that is done successfully throughout the course of the album. Fingerprints sways too often, teasing world music sensibilities, circling around Frampton’s key assets while he attempts to prove his broadened abilities. The instrumental album is something that puts Frampton back on course for what could be a positive re-establishment of his career, but for the time being, Fingerprints simply isn’t that.

9) The Who Endless Wire

What’s the difference between The New Cars, The Doors of the 21st Century, or even Blondie’s latest adaptation and that of The Who? To some degree it comes down to questionable intent, that which I don’t perceive to be a problem when considering Endless Wire as a full blown Who album. Daltrey and Townshend don’t have the energy they once did, given, but now they have a lifetime of achievements and experiences yet to sing about; for better or worse that is exactly what comes out in Endless Wire. There’s an essence about the music that both explicitly steals from the band’s history (“Fragments”) and adds another credit to The Who’s catalogue full of amazing contributions (“Mirror Door”). But even at its highest moments there are questionable holes that give cynics’ criticism validity.

Daltrey sounds tired, and expounds far less in the youthful capacity that he did during his prime. Townshend’s modern relevance as a songwriter comes into question as he no longer expels society’s shackles through song, but now instead finds himself writing a lyrical response to Passion of the Christ and an ode to his favorite country singer. Moon and Entwistle’s absence creates a distinct leverage against the band and without condemning their replacements too harshly they in no way match the former band’s pulse and vigor. Had Endless Wire been released a decade ago, it would have met an audience decrying it as cashing in on lost fame, but despite its flaws it now it comes across as one last shot at creating something the tests the limits of age and jaded celebrity.

8) Cheap Trick Rockford

I’m reminded of a lyric by NOFX’s Fat Mike, “When your band has been a band longer than the Ramones, and critics coin you ‘the punk Rolling Stones’ that’s when you know this is for life.” Along those lines I don’t think it would be out of line to classify Cheap Trick the power-pop Rolling Stones. As a band Cheap Trick has continually been together, touring and recording since its first studio recording in the late 1970s, guitarist Rock Nielsen, vocalist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun. E. Carlos have been honing their collective licks since 1968 where they started in Illinois.

With the album Rockford the group simply continues to keep on keepin’ on, which is miraculous considering its unwavering recording and touring consistency. Unlike some of the bands on this list, and in today’s rock landscape in general, Cheap Trick isn’t a modern vehicle for an expired sum of artists but rather a lifestyle; Cheap Trick is simply how its members have lived for close to forty years. When the modern generation of music fan may only know of your band by a theme song from a retro TV show or as “The Dream Police” guys, it’s hard to say what keeps Cheap Trick writing and living rock ‘n roll in today’s musical environment. All consideration aside, however, Rockford is as genuine and inspired as anything in modern rock and it’s fairly safe to say that for the band’s members, this is for life.

7) Bob Seger Face the Promise

On a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman Seger discussed his relationship with his family, and how it is the most important thing in his life. Subsequently that’s the exact reason that he hadn’t released an album since 1995’s It’s A Mystery; Seger wanted to maintain his family and watch his children grow. Now returning to music as a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer with a family that supports him Seger continued the conversation by explaining that he has recorded many multiple albums worth of material in preparation for Face the Promise.

Face the Promise sounds like Seger in every way. There are horns where you would expect horns and gritty vocals where you’d expect gritty vocals. Time has taken its toll on Seger’s voice which claws and scratches to grasp for high notes that were once common place in his songs. One of the historical downfalls of Seger’s music is the man’s willingness to play to his audience in spit of his audience. ZZ Top and AC/DC do it too, they play their sounds and their songs over and over, recording after recording. Not to say that playing far within your capabilities is a bad thing, but when attempting to invigorate a recording career with a recycled sound that has been sitting on the shelf for more than a decade, doing so just doesn’t make sense.

6) Elton John The Captain and the Kid

The Captain’s second track “Just Like Noah’s Ark,” with its silky gospel overtones and marching tempo, works for a number of reasons: organs wailing, pounding piano, and a slightly hushed guitar solo. To me, the song is classic rock in its fullest sense, and that’s exactly what John and his partner in crime (songwriting) Bernie Taupin were hoping for when writing The Captain and the Kid. It’s the antithesis of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell III, it’s a team joining and completing something that still has modern relevance; that being a group of friends looking to complete a story they started some thirty years ago with Captain Fantastic…

Elton John has made a conscious effort to work towards a commercial audience the past few years but I remember a change around the time of his 1995 release Made in England, specifically with the title track. The song included words that started a roaming emotion of personal vindication for John, something that now finds itself perpetuating his outspoken appreciation for minority rights and religious condemnation. Through all that, however, is music, and half of The Captain tells a story as much entertaining lyrically as it is musically. It’s just a shame that for the other half of the album, it’s lyrically foggy and lethargic.

5) Yusef Islam An Other Cup

Marking the 40th Anniversary of his debut release I Love My Dog, Islam attempts to record an album of attempting to reconcile with his pop music past. Releasing some ten albums of religious-based world music since his last Cat Stevens album some twenty eight years ago doesn’t appear to cause any conflicting agenda in An Other Cup. The sound is oh so familiar and Ste…Islam’s voice is as warm and inviting as ever.

“One Day at a Time” is a flowing, quiet song that beautifully elaborates on daily reverence, though unfortunately it is quickly followed by “When Butterflies Leave,” a brief spoken statement concluding “those who worked for tomorrow will not miss the dreams of yesterday.” Islam is sincere in his message with that statement, and likewise throughout the entire album he finds a balance between his pop sensibilities and his modern living. This is no more apparent than in “The Beloved” which calmly finds balance between traditional African music and Islam’s soothing vocals. Commenting on the album Islam noted “I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again.” As his current contribution shows, it is sometimes allowing ones self the freedom to start over that truly sets a contribution above that of others.

4) Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome

As masturbatory as it is for a bloated group of musicians lead by a multi-millionaire to sing and play an album’s worth of protest songs is, The Seeger Sessions band have made an honestly enjoyable album. The spellbinding live show that included a stage literally packed with musicians that many have gawked over throughout the course of the year is a direct result of the original sessions that make up We Shall Overcome. When Springsteen began his voice meant something, he sung songs of heartache, the kind that love cannot redeem; the worker’s heart that was never full because it belonged to someone else for some fifty hours a week. But Springsteen’s through time and fame critics focused their jaded opinions on how a man of his stature could release music for the working man.

But his fans never for one minute succeeded in giving up on the man and held tightly to his words over the course of his long career. With We Shall OvercomeSpringsteen somehow manages to reconcile this working man’s voice in an age that cries for help. Lobbyists and corporations control the government, unionization is corrupted by outsourcing and growing disconnect between those who run the country and the country’s workers. And yet a group of the lesser known musicians fronted by the a member of the country’s financial elite reinterpreting songs made famous by one of the country’s most outspoken voices seems to alleviate this struggle, even if only it is a momentary superficial relief.

3) Bob Dylan Modern Times

Whether it be harmonically flirting with Alicia Keys, appearing as a shadowed figure promoting his new album in connection with Apple’s iPod or honoring the Sexiest Woman Alive© in video Bob Dylan has not only stepped towards staying hip but fulfilled the plea of his album’s title, Modern Times. Even at the slowest parts of the album where the songs seem to move like cold molasses, Dylan maintains the listeners’ attention by breathing his aged words through his lips giving everyone an impromptu history lesson and proving his consideration for the modern listener.

What sparks the most interest in the album’s release besides its remarkable music is its cross generational acceptance. Dylan is by far not a typical classic rock artist but he has done more than any classic rock artist ever has. Not simply in terms of his earlier work, but rather that of shifting his image and sound through time to where he still sits atop the Kingdom of Relevance at age sixty five. Dylan now finds himself at a stage in his career where he is broadly considered to have released his third straight masterpiece, an astounding accomplishment considering Modern Times is his thirty-first release. It’s no longer even fashionable to give mere respect to Dylan, but rather one must now have a deeper sense for who he is. In the movie High Fidelity, Jack Black’s character Barry accosted a customer for not owning one of Dylan’s finest; “Don’t tell anyone you don’t own Blonde on Blonde,” and on TV ESPN analyst Tony Kornheiser has preached the worth of Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home to the sports nation. Dylan is no longer a musician, no longer a celebrity, but a figure whose music will outlive the passion and reference that lead him to create it. Modern Times is not excluded from that sentiment.

2) Tom Petty Highway Companion

Tom Petty is nothing if not a rock legend and in his most recent effort he steps outside of The Heartbreakers and proves that once again his command and presence is at a musical high. When first released, his single “Saving Grace” proved to be a tricky step towards a choppier, harder Petty; one that hasn’t had a lot of face time on his albums, but a Petty that many immediately fell in love with. The song helped Petty find a niche that had yet to really be filled by any other classic rock star, that being space within modern hipster-dom; fulfilling the label as he would perform on Saturday Night Live, play the Bonnaroo Festival and grace AOL Sessions with a remarkable set.

But what sets Petty apart from his contemporaries? Whether it be the slight drizzle of organ that finds its way into “Night Driver,” the youthful twang of “Jack,” or even the optimistic slide “Big Weekend,” it becomes clear that the answer is Petty’s honesty. As a musician and lyricist he is honest with his listener. As a musician and singer has limits but will still occasionally test them, unafraid of the risk as he knows his fans will accept his choices. And while he continually grows, he keeps just enough of his last album in his mental queue so as to not forget what direction he was headed. “Flirting with Time” doesn’t carry the same lyrical context as “The Last DJ” but could most definitely be found on the same album without question. Tom Petty is an original and with Highway Companion he has continued his sickeningly consistent string of solid rock albums.

1) Neil Young Living With War

Seconds into the lead track on Young’s Living with War, “After The Garden” overtakes its listener, sonically overcoming any hurtles that either time or the media have created. It’s not a plea for liberalism, nor does it serve as a blatant statement condemning the country’s current administration (that comes mere minutes later), but rather a question of realism in our nation. It questions sustainability and substance, both of which are important and critical to not only our world’s future existence but our present existence. What follows in the album’s second track, “Living with War” is a statement that not only expounds on Young’s philosophy, but serves as a mission statement for the global artist, “I join the multitudes, I raise my hand in peace, I never bow to the laws of the thought police.”

In a time when corporate America is attempting to further whitewash the independent media through bullying net neutrality into a corner it is vital that these words be heard. Living with War takes each track, fitting its message into a few mere minutes, and finds more substance buried within than anything else that has been released this year by musician both old and young. The album should not raise question as to whether or not Neil Young is right or wrong but rather serve as an example of anti-authoritative rhetoric, expelling the mainstream media’s bloated apathy and give hope to those who want to explore what is behind the surface of the matter. If questioning Young’s intention and logic is your agenda his premeditated response comes in the form of the song “Let’s Impeach the President.” It is a song that would silence doubters, presenting the inconsistencies of the Bush Administration through evidence served straight from Bush himself. Never would I have imagined that it would take an old farm boy from Winnipeg singing a few songs of political dissent would enlighten and create this great of a plea for a confessional democracy. But I am most certainly glad it did.

Sean Hawryluk (of Ladyhawk) Interview

Ladyhawk is one of a the rising number of bands this year that has seemingly hit highs as response to fan support which has come in the form of online feedback and generous praise of the band’s live show. As the distinction between hype and merit is agonized over and examined in detail Ladyhawk pay it no attention and simply lay it out as best its members know how. In a similar light to that of British Columbian brothers Lions in the Street the band plays their brand of rock ‘n roll with no regard to those around them, they just drink, smoke and play their hearts out. In this interview bassist Sean Hawryluk gives his take on what he really thinks the band’s music is about, why free beer (weed) is the best, and The Tragically Hip vs. the Klaxons.

A lot of sentiment surrounding the band includes thought that Ladyhawk is in some fashion a throw back to classic, pre-innovation-for-sake-of-innovation rock. What’s your take on that?

Sean Hawryluk: We’re bare bones, our plan is no plan. There is no ironic throw back, but we’d be lying if we said that all we listened to wasn’t classic rock. Hopefully that sums it up.

Do you ever get the feeling that you need to try something different just to be heard in today’s musical landscape or are you content doing your own thing?

Sean Hawryluk: We just play songs the way they come out. We need not a glockenspiel or keyboard. We’ll do things the way we do them until we get bored with it, then we’ll try something else.

Do you even pay attention to hype bands that are labeled as rock’s next great savior? UK’s The Klaxons come to mind as of late.

Sean Hawryluk: Don’t know ‘em, don’t vouch for ‘em. I guess that answers the question, no, we really have our heads up our asses when it comes to what’s “hip.” Now the Tragically Hip, that’s a whole nother story, we know a lot about them.

Let’s switch gears - Kokanee beer. When I lived in Calgary, it was my favorite beer and as your beginnings are in Kelowna, you’ve got to be familiar with it. What do you think of the beer and what are some other great brands you’ve come across on your journeys?

Sean Hawryluk: Much like weed, all beer is good beer. Free beer is the best beer.

You’ve had the luxury of playing with a laundry list of bands on both sides of the border, which groups have been the most exciting to play with?

Sean Hawryluk: We’ve been lucky enough to have played with some rad ones…S.T.R.E.E.T.S., Black Mountain, Blood Meridian, Hard Drugs, Magnolia Electric co, Catfish Haven, Pride Tiger, Drunk Horse, Jon Rae and the River, Pequod, Oneida, Oakley Hall, Romance, the list goes on and on…

What hopes do you have for the band in 2007?

Sean Hawryluk: Get a lot of shit done. Release an EP. Record another full length. Tour a shit load. Meet rad people. Party good times.

If Ladyhawk were able to play one final show, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Sean Hawryluk: S.T.R.E.E.T.S., Black Mountain, Magnolia Electric Co., that’d be groovy; any of the above.

Silverchair "Young Modern"

Following up what many consider to be the band’s best album (if nothing else it was their highest selling in Australia) Diorama will be Silverchair’s fifth entitled Young Modern which is set to be released in the Spring of 2007. The band holds a special place for many as their youthful power defied typical modern or mainstream rock radio by creating what some consider timeless music that found itself slightly out of the box. As he continues to rehabilitate from his reactive arthritis singer Daniel Johns proves to have overcome what could have been one of the greatest crushing blows in recent rock history and with the band’s recent performance at the 2006 ARIA Awards Silverchair looks to be back on course for yet another terrific album.

Laurie Shanaman & Aesop Dekker (of Ludicra) Interview

Black metal is a strange thing, to a certain sects of fan it can take on entirely different meanings and embody a completely different lifestyle. Take a comparison between the Norwegian band Immortal and San Francisco’s Ludicra for example. Essentially, there is no comparison to be made yet both are termed black metal. One grew as apart of a new breed of metal, which lauded itself as distinct, bearing unabashed vocals, corpse paint and more spiked jewelry than you can shake a stick at. The other however comes as a reaction to over the top theatrics and an under-produced unrefined mystique. Since the band’s beginning in 1998 Ludicra have been riffling a furious wave of energy that stands as strong evidence that San Francisco’s core is far from soft. In this interview drummer Aesop Dekker and vocalist Laurie Shanaman about the band’s experimental history, its relationship with its historically non-metal label and where the corpse paint has gone.

A lot of bands have had something crucial in their history that lends itself to a metaphor for the band’s existence. What does it mean to Ludicra to have formed on Halloween and are there any special plans for the band’s upcoming anniversary?

Aesop Dekker: The fact that we started playing under the name of Ludicra on Halloween is of little significance. However, every Halloween we play in San Francisco, this year with our friends Asunder, Keen of the Crow, and Aldebaran.

Laurie Shanaman: I forgot Ludicra formed on Halloween, but I wasn’t in the band yet at that time.

Since the rise of the band’s popularity it seems that Ludicra has been accepted outside of the traditional realm of black metal fan. What do you attribute this cross-genre fan base to?

AD: I wasn’t aware of this rise in popularity, but I think Ludicra appeals to a wide variety of people because we aren’t so rigid and genre specific in our approach. We don’t set out to be this or that, we just do Ludicra.

Laurie Shanaman: We love black metal music and it was/is a big influence but as we get older, we also feel the need for experimentation and growth.

Likewise, the band has built a relationship with a typically non-metal label, Alternative Tentacles, and has found success in doing so. How has AT helped the band when comparing it to a strictly metal label?

Aesop Dekker: People often ask this, but Alternative Tentacles does have a history of putting out eclectic music, and some heavy stuff as well that we adore like Neurosis, Amebix, Zeni Geva and Logical Nonsense. With a regular “metal” labels we’d be more likely to get lost in the roster. AT is run by a small group of folks that are available and very supportive of Ludicra.

Laurie Shanaman: Yes, it seems AT is an eclectic label for an eclectic metal band!

After examining the band’s lyrical content, it becomes hard to really place a finger on an ongoing topical base. What would you note as being the greatest ongoing theme throughout the band’s music?

Aesop Dekker: The theme is real life. We write about what we know and deal with day to day, depression, life in the city, relationships, drug addictions, our friends dying, happy things like that. We couldn’t see ourselves writing about forests and Satan, it’s not us and would just get old fast.

Laurie Shanaman: Life’s encounters living and struggling in the city is usually what I write about; forms of chemical depression, dreams, mistakes made, etc.

What is contributing to many black metal bands shifting away from corpse paint and gruesome lyrics?

Aesop Dekker: Perhaps boredom. The genre is too over-saturated with generic bands and rigid rules to remain interesting for any length of time; probably why many of the genres founders have left it behind. I still find some interesting bands here and there but these are the ones willing to take risks or just do it by instinct rather than trod the paths laid out by Darkthrone. It happened to punk as well, too many bands and very little difference between them.

Laurie Shanaman: I’m not sure if I’d be able to write lyrics any other way. The music (of Ludicra) sounds more moody and dark to me then evil and scary. Both Aesop and I write the lyrics for Ludicra and this is the way that follows the mood of our music best. Our bass player Ross is excellent at writing gruesome lyrics in his other bands Impaled and Ghoul.

What has been the your most surreal moment on stage?

Aesop Dekker: There has been a few. My favorite was a show we played in Flagstaff at this house and these kids were crammed into this small house just going nuts, tearing the place apart while we played. They were everywhere, in between us, under drums, just freaking out. I’ve seen people weep while we play, they get very emotional.

Laurie Shanaman: I’ve slipped into another zone a few times playing live, I would forget where I was for a minute, I guess this happens often. Sweating out your demons is a very surreal feeling indeed. That Flagstaff show was crazy indeed, I almost fainted that night from the heat or lack of air, then the cops shut it down..

If Ludicra had one last show to play together, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Aesop Dekker: Madonna.

Laurie Shanaman: Weakling and/or Acid Bath, if they still existed.