Talib Kweli “More or Less” Video



One of hip hop’s most anticipated releases of the year comes with the upcoming Talib Kweli album Eardrum. The lyrics have a serious flow and they mix easily with the simple, yet memorable, beat. Also featured in the song is Hi-Tek.

The Morning Benders “Boarded Doors” EP

The Morning Benders are back with the group’s second EP entitled Boarded Doors, which will be released on March 13th. For those that don’t know, the group plays a historical pop-rock sound which some (not I) have dubbed close to that of the Beatles has turned some heads over the past year or so with the release of its Loose Change EP. The new songs represent themselves a lot stronger on the whole than the group’s earlier work, though it nothing to look down at on its own.

Type O Negative "Dead Again"

Peter Steele, lead singer and bassist for Brooklyn, NY based group Type O Negative recently gave a humorous description as to the reasoning behind the band’s cover art for the upcoming album Dead Again during an interview with Tina Cederberg of GetMetal.com, “Me being the songwriter and art coordinator for the band I thought the visual would go with the title Dead Again. And being Slavic and having quite a bit in common with Rasputin - he was an alcoholic, a drug addict, a womanizer, he had a big penis.” Talk about calling ‘em like you see ‘em.

The group’s upcoming release is a drifting departure from 2003’s Life is Killing Me which was far more commercially viable in terms of the sound of the majority of the tracks on the album. Dead Again is deeper and delivers something of a throwback for the band in terms of the song count and length, with the ten song record timing in at just under eighty minutes. As per the norm the basis for much of the lyrical material comes from a variety of personal sources, from that of Steele’s shame towards his drug and alcohol abuse in “Dead Again” to that of Dimebag Darrell Abbott’s slaying in “Halloween in Heaven.” As always the album should be terrific and nothing less than a wine-soaked doomfest can be expected from the band on its upcoming tour which will also feature Celtic Frost and Brand New Sin. It has also been reported recently that the band will be included in this year’s Gods of Metal festival in Milan, Italy; the schedule also including the likes of Velvet Revolver, Dream Theater, Dimmu Borgir, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society and Megadeth. Look for the album in stores on March 13.

Casting a Deep Shadow: Willard Grant Conspiracy

Willard Grant Conspiracy is a group that has, over the course of course of ten years, released eleven albums of live and studio material - with Let It Roll being its latest. The band’s only permanent member and vocalist Robert Fisher sounds like a roots-Nick Cave with a voice deeply based in coffee and cigarettes. His words however, speak truer to making daily life work than to Cave’s songs of misery. Over the course of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s existence countless members have contributed either in the studio or on stage to the collective sound that reflects the group’s voice rather than simply that of Fisher’s. The group’s MySpace page currently allocates room in the group for twenty seven members, which despite the overwhelming statistic, doesn’t come across as heavy in the recording, but rather as gentle, lean and inviting.

Gauchos Interview



All Victor Jorge wanted to do is show his fellow Argentineans how good his children were at playing heavy metal. But when the television producers of a video-clip show rejected the submissions he sent in, Jorge didn't know what else to do. So he put his kids on YouTube.

Three-and-a-half million viewings later, Jorge's kids--better known as Los Gauchos--have become an Internet sensation. Online, these sweet-faced cherubs have been melting faces with their furious rock, blanketing YouTube with their covers of Sepultura, Iron Maiden, and Cradle of Filth. And now they're moving offline as well, recently performing at Cosquin Rock 2007, one of Argentina's outdoor festivals, which had more than 20,000 attendees over the span of three days.

Record labels have begun courting Los Gauchos, who are working on original music. Their popularity has grown so widespread, they've even attracted the attention of the Argentinean government, which is supplying the band with sound equipment. We checked in with Martin, the Pokemon-loving 10-year-old singer-guitarist; Agustin, the 11-year-old drummer; and Emilio, the group's 14-year-old elder statesmen to see how their newfound fame has changed their lives. (Their dad helped with some answers, too.)

What's it like being famous?

It's really incredible when you know that millions of people know you from a site that has so many videos, and you are being watched and that they value what we have done without equipment, without teachers, without help, everything from home, amateur and without money. Only the drums and one guitar are ours--the rest is borrowed. And, well, aside from that it's a very big responsibility. In a sense we are representing our city, Salta.

When did you first realize people were watching you play?

Well, we noticed after a week and we were not expecting to be watched so much, especially in a site filled with so many videos of different things.

In these clips... are you guys really playing next to a set of bunk beds?

Yes, that's our bedroom. But now we have started to go out and play. The next videos are live, where we play in Cosquin Rock, a festival of 20,000 people. It's probably the largest festival in Argentina.

Is that your sister in the video for Iron Maiden? Are you grooming her to be your lead singer?

Well she's my niece, not my sister, but in any case we would really like that she sing with us. Although now she is too young, but we hope that she will like heavy metal. She's four years old.

Why is your band called Gauchos?

Our band never had a name. What happened was that since our YouTube name was "gauchosalta," people started calling us Los Gauchos, so we asked them to give our band a name. Our official name now is Gauchos de Acero (Gauchos of Steel).

Are any record labels showing interest?

Many people that have called us to record an album, so now we're composing songs--we want to record our own songs. Also, it's complicated because we live 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) from Buenos Aires and if we record an album, we'd have to go and promote it and we have school.

This year, we'll see what we'll do. Remember, this band has only been around for five months--before we would only play for fun. We're very surprised by all this. The first thing we want to do after Cosquin is get an agent so we have help when we have to play or go on tour because of our age and school. Also we want to buy some semi-professional equipment, 100 watts give or take, and during that be recording.

How many instruments can each of you play?

Emilio: I play guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Martin: I also play guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Agustin: I play drums and vocals.

When did you first learn to play your instruments?

Emilio learned when he was 12 years old. Well, that's when he started getting into this music thing, and then, well, the others joined. Martin and Agustin both started two years ago. But as a band, about 6 months.

How often do you practice?

We didn't practice for two months because we didn't have our own equipment. We couldn't buy them until now. When we have the equipment, we practice every night.

A question for Martin: Which do you like more: heavy metal or Pokemon?

I like them both equally. And I like them both very much.

Who are your favorite bands?

Our favorite bands are Sepultura, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Horcas, King Diamond, Almafuerte, Metallica.

Which band would you most like to play with?

We'd love to play with Sepultura—that would be a dream come true. Sepultura introduced us to heavy metal.

How does it feel to be seen three million times?

It's really good. We know we can't mess up. We have to take this serious but always have fun, too. But from now on, we have a very big responsibility.

This is probably a dumb question, but what do you want to do when you grow up?

Musicians!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[This article was first published by Esquire.]

Peter, Bjorn & John “Objects of My Affection” Video



The first thought for those who are only casually familiar with Peter, Bjorn & John (myself included) will be that “Objects of My Affection” is quite subtle and less enticing than the wider known “Young Folk.” But a few listens to the single should provoke more interest as the bass line begins to develop a lasting taste in your brain. The video is a little abstract, a little interesting, but in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t further the song all that much.

Bloc Party “A Weekend in the City” Review

With the release of A Weekend in the City London’s Bloc Party has tried to council its fans with the attempt of again finding a solid voice, all the while attempting to atain its remarkable critical acclaim. And somewhere in there lies the challenge of explaining the life of a group of twenty somethings (exception: Gordon Moakes) in a way that distains reality without neglecting the band’s artistic focus. A focus which has driven the group to its current state of popularity; hard for any group to do, let alone one that has so many people banking on its failure.

Instinctly one looks for a comparison to Silent Alarm, the group’s 2005 debut album which changed the way many view modern indie rock as a whole. However few initially found similarities between the two and the initial feedback leaned towards being negative; most identifying the album as quite different, too different for many. The similarities are scarcer than most anticipated, both musically and lyrically, and while the first week of the album’s public consumption continued the trend of questionable feedback continued rolling in. The all consuming review-pillar MetaCritic rates the album a mere 66/100, placing it somewhere in the midst of Gwen Stefani’s questionable Sweet Escape and The Shins‘ indie-gone-mainstream Wincing the Night Away. Some overwhelming voices influencing that rating criticize A Weekend in the City as being too different, not being what it should have been…some even strangely remarking on how strangely emo it feels (though I don’t agree with that particular sentiment at all) - it’s just not the Bloc Party album that everyone apparently wanted to hear.

Often when figuring into the equation what it is people look for the within a given piece of music the lyrical content can often be overlooked. In the case of A Weekend in the City many must be avoiding singer Kele Okereke’s words which better identify a youth generation than most in recent memory. A youth generation that is now realizing itself to no longer be adolescent, but rather to be of adult orientation and through the self examination realizes, too, that it has grown into an emotional void from which it needs to find shelter.

The album largely deals with the idea of relationships and the associated variables surrounding them, but one of the first striking tracks that steps out of that idea is “Hunting For Witches;” a song that deals largely with the middle class’s realization of terrorist misinformation. But the human emotion can largely attribute its state to the surrounding clashes of daily life, and in the last five years there has been no greater clash than that between the individual, its government and the proposed enemy. Indeed when we are set for a modern day witch hunt, we begin lacking confidence and security within our communities and are eventually driven to a state of anxiety that doesn’t allow the level of comfort which was once enjoyed without the term luxury being associated with it. But as with many Okereke’s age, it becomes necessity to not only make peace with one’s inner conflicting dialogue, but to make peace with those around you and the relationships you all share - it is this set of relationships which covers much of A Weekend in the City.

What best identifies both what it is that Okereke has gone through since Silent Alarm and his current frustrations can best be summed up through “Waiting for the 718″ and “Kreuzberg.” Through the songs he stresses two points, one being that he wished his future to be a series of moments rather than a simply time passing by, and the second being a feeling of removal from mental stagnation. “Waiting for the 718″ rides the line “Just give me moments, not hours or days” which is then reflected by “Kreuzberg”s “I have decided at twenty-five something must change.” Through the course of writing and recording Okereke has taken a budding thought, put it into place and realized it by making an attempt for meaning within the moments of his life as the album was released with the hope that it would begin a series of meaningful moments for him and his band mates.

“SRXT” almost redefines the ongoing search for beauty and self understanding that much of the album seeks. It doesn’t give up necessarily, but it voices its frustration and need for a break from it all. This may very well be a break from disgusted teenagers who now find themselves uprising against the band’s ever-changing music or comfortable critics who feel the need to question the authenticity of the lyrics. A Weekend in the City is far from what many originally anticipated and even further from what many had hoped for, but it clearly defines the confusion that young love, hope and sadness bring. This voice will never be entirely perfect or clear but given that stance, the recording in itself couldn’t have been more complete.

Dungen “Gör Det Nu”

Hopefully the first seven seconds of Dungen’s lead single from its upcoming album Tito Bitar is fairly indicative of the rest of what we are to hear. A raging drum roll introduction is hammered by some strange psychedelic Stooges riff which is then joined by some steady-handed piano all leading into the group’s audiorgy. Though, if the first seven seconds, or even the song in its entirety isn’t repeated over and over for an hour on the album, it may not be a bad thing.

Three 6 Mafia Feat. Chamillionaire “Dough Boy Fresh” Video



The song for the lead single from Three Six Mafia’s upcoming Last 2 Walk album is…well…a little funny, to be honest. How far has the group strayed from its beginnings since its inception? Far enough to where it is now street to shout out “Academy Award Winners” during the intro to your song. I’m sure their parents are really proud of them, but is that really what’s representing on the streets? Further developing the film theme with the video (which is another funny part) the visual accompaniment is essentially a hood Being John Malkovich…but only its not, because if it was we’d have to involve the law and as all Oscar winners know, the law has no place in music (videos). Look out for Last 2 Walk when it’s released May 1st.

Soundgarden Reunion not in the Works…and Something About Audioslave

A friend recently noted, in response to Rage Against the Machine’s reunion show at Coachella, something along the lines of “as long as it means no more Audioslave, I’m all for it.” Well, dreams can come true. Last week Chris Cornell announced the release date for his upcoming solo record, and mentioned a little something about irreconcilable differences with his band mates in Audioslave.

What came next, however, was some truly damning news (via Idolator):

“I seriously doubt it. If that (a Soundgarden reunion) were ever going to happen, someone would have to rally behind it. We ended on a great note. There is no unfinished business and no record to make and no more tours to play. I think that’s a great thing. At the end of the day it’s the fans who make you who you are. We can all be proud that a Soundgarden fan can always put on a Soundgarden record and not have to try and get some uncomfortable memory of a bad show or a new record in their mind.”

These words, of course, come from one Chris Cornell: former Audioslaver, present day boner-killer.

I will be the first to say that I really enjoyed Audioslave’s first album, enjoyed the group’s second to some degree, but honestly felt cheated after taking the time to listen to group’s last which was simply horrible. From that point on, whether or not Audioslave recorded a single note after Revelations really wouldn’t matter because it was clear that the idea that once seemed bright was far past its prime. But with Rage Against the Machine looking to possible cater to a whole new era of angry, rap-rock seeking youth, a Soundgarden reunion looked plausible. But as much as fans may want it, Cornell is right, just as with some groups who have gone back to work - there is simply no need for a reunion. Still sour about Cornell sucking these days? Let’s all take a look at a time when his amazing vocals blew our minds and when he rolled with a pack of musicians unlike no other, Soundgarden.

Fu Manchu “We Must Obey” Review

Much of the reason groups along the lines of Thin Lizzy have any relevance to me today is because of Fu Manchu. Coursing through the past twenty years with a number of lineup changes, the current members of the sun-streaked metal outfit have never ceased bleeding stoner rock and We Must Obey follows the same pattern to a tee. The post-Brant Bjork era of the group has had a few years to reflect on what will most likely be remembered as the worst recording in the band’s history, Start the Machine. The album ultimately captured little of the band’s ability, giving up its classic sound in exchange for courser, harder songs that held little substance as a whole. Within seconds of hearing the title track on the new album, which kicks things off, it becomes clear that the band too knows how poor its last release was, also knowing that if it were to continue that trend it would most likely end any momentum it still carried with its increasingly sparse fan base.

The song’s heavy introduction welcomes “Knew It All Along” which better executes what may have been the idea behind Start The Machine. Its doom-pop further glances into a harder sound than what fans can typically attribute to that of the group’s heyday, but it maintains control as to how deep, or heavy it gets. The chorus, if taken out of context of the album, is strong alone unto itself and leaches into one of the album’s best solos performed by guitarist Bob Balch. The album’s first two tracks show a distinct separation between Fu Manchu 1997 and Fu Manchu 2007, but almost to a fault the band shows no relent to play to its fans hearts with its brand of fuzzy skaterpunk that few have been able to match throughout the years.

The album’s first single “Hung Out to Dry” continues as classic Fu Manchu. It is slow, rhythmic and carries a beat that would awaken you from even the deepest of weed naps. That being said, it falls in line with the group’s historical repetitive fault, encouraging the listener to bore with the song with its excessively basic lyrics and hook. But thankfully, Fu Manchu doesn’t allow the entire album’s energy to fade with this track as the band varies its pace with the next few songs without exceeding its musical limits, a true indicator that the group fully realizes its mistake with its last album.

Just as the group did with Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” in 1996 and Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” in 1998 it does with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” on We Must Obey. One of the most underrated aspects of Fu Manchu is its ability to recraft an already notable song by a group that holds a key distinction amongst its fans. At its musical low, the band still played its back catalogue masterfully and revived classics such as those mentioned here with a unique touch like no other. It’s alarming and refreshing to know that a band which had been condemned DOA after 2002’s California Crossing is far from it, and its good to have Fu Manchu back.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen Review

Continually looking to its musical patriarch for advice and acceptance through the better part of the 90’s North America continually scoured incoming news from England as to what was to be considered musically abrasive, shiny, dormant or even the next big thing. For instance, Canada’s music video mainstay, Much Music, had a love affair with Brit Pop though it often criticized the movement and downplayed its various lifelines. For a nation of innocent listeners, the music was as quickly glorified as it was dismissed, leaving many confused and unsure as to whether the flag of Blur fandom was something that should be waved proudly, or hidden securely underneath one’s bed. Damon Albarn, then notorious for internationally for the commercial success of The Great Escape, Parklife and Blur’s 1997 self titled release, was as quickly famous as he was suggested to be amongst the scene’s casualties. Oh, British music, you are but a complicated mistress.

With the group’s focus narrowly escaping its origins, Blur began straying musically with 13 and the group’s last album, 2003’s Think Tank, which boasted such electronic-laced tracks as the commercially popular “Crazy Beat.” What was one to then think of the group who by that time had been shunned by the machine that had made it once relevant to the masses? And there within lies the essence of what makes Albarn’s The Good, The Bad & The Queen a success without having ever needed to play a single note, it’s a collective unity based on historic critical bipolarism.

The group is a collective of members that has, through time, become devoid of popularity only to have been reconstructed in the public’s ever watching eye. Included in this thought are Albarn, who has been pushed and rejected with Blur, only to have been acclaimed again with Gorillaz and Paul Simonon who has battled the backlash that followed his uncommercial artistic endeavors following The Clash. Also in the band is Simon Tong, once apart of what could have been the successor to the Brit Pop throne, The Verve, who fell out of music altogether following the band’s break-up. Tony Allen is in the group too, but it can most likely be assumed that he is so not because of overt critical dismissal, but rather because he is simply a tremendous musician…

A historical map of each member’s musical path would suggest that The Queen would be a loud boozy shaker, toasting each day as a success for simply arriving. Rather, the music is far from expected. It is a gentle sway that courses softly through London’s once-seedy underbelly, lightly scraping itself on its surroundings as a seed that thrives and sprouts through the medley within. So chimes Albarn in “The Good, The Bad and The Queen,”

“Movin’ uptown but I know it’s the place I should be.
The streets are all quiet and no one saying nothing at all.
Then the sun came out of the clouds and charged up the satellites.
We all got our energy back and started talking again.
It’s a blessed routine for the good, the bad and the queen.
Walking out of dreams with no physical wounds at all.”

Whether or not the song’s implication sums up a body of musician that has been drained by its fan, its critic and itself only to reemerge as something strong and beautiful again is up for debate. Whether it paints each member as something many assumed they weren’t is not however. The Good, The Bad & The Queen illuminates modern rock without recourse, cockily shining its own tale in the face of those content, all the while toasting it’s own predictable celebrity.

Transparent Sound: Fujiya & Miyagi

Pitchfork recently included Fujiya & Miyagi as apart of its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2006, ranking the band somewhere within the realm of awesome-though-not-concisely-spectacular with a placement at #39 on the list. The group’s unimposing presence plays to the retro-pop crowd without even once attempting to lure mainstream listeners in by bringing sexy back. Ultimately providing a blunt disco-synth slap jack to the forehead of its unexacting listener the trio glaze over its soft ambient sounds with hipster electronica (you know - the kind that ignores pulsating beats while still attempting to cater to club scene stragglers). But what keeps its members, David Best, Steve Lewis and Matt Hainsby, together you might ask? Why, love (of Krautrock and early ’90s electronica) of course.

Audionom “Retrospektiv” Review

As Retrospektiv stands it is the lone rearviewmirror to a band that most, including myself, unfortunately knew little to nothing about, it fortunately also serves as an indicator of what may come for Audionom. The group itself has physically changed throughout the years with a large number of comings and goings but has evolved around its core of Johan Hinders (vocals, synthesizer), Peter Backebo (guitar, backing vocals), and Paul Sigerhall (drums). Forming in the late ’90s the group found a great deal of early success through a number of singles released in its native Sweden before eventually disbanding.Retrospektiv, having been originally released overseas in 2005, now looks forebode what is to come for the reunited line-up with its American release.

After the over-the-top pop-metal jam “Ljusets Krigare” introduces the group to its listener Audionom settle in with a series of songs that sequester the band from its scene, its country and its contemporaries. “And You Said I Was the Only One” and “Kristall” both float into the album’s landscape with an essence of Ian Curtis so sickening that the songs immediate cause the listener to question the bands motives. Is Audionom merely a European predecessor to any of the hundreds of goth-influenced American rock groups who attempted to lay claim to the sound’s rebirth in the mainstream during the first few years of the new millennium or is it in fact something greater? That question takes little time in answering itself as the tone and core of the songs that follow alternately offer genuine glimpses of balance krautrock and nuanced order.

As the album further defines the group it becomes obvious that there is truly a blurred distinction surrounding its sound. “Boogierock” is a sludgy, repetitive, grinding instrumental that develops over the course of the song’s first thirty seconds rather than slowly building over the course of the song’s eight and a half minutes.

A few years back I was working on a demolition project with a few of my cousins and the job included transporting a large quantity of metal pallet racking pieces. Rather than taking it safe and making two trips with the large flatbed trailer we were using they figured it best to load everything up to the maximum height limit and let it rip in one trip. After strapping the racking down we jumped in the cab of the truck and started working up to the freeway. We were taking the corners sharply and the truck flew down the road, I asked something along the lines of “aren’t we going a little fast” and my cousin responded “no way, balls to the wall, if it’s going to fall – it’s going to fall.” And in a way that completely explains Audionom to a tee. If the sound is going to break somewhere along the way, so be it, but they’re not going to slow down in anticipation of that snap.

Whereas “Boogierock” consumes the better part of nine minutes, “Det Var På Den Tiden Vi Bodde i Skogen och Hade Svans” doesn’t even break two. What follows is something true to its predecessors yet distinctly different, a fifteen minute stoner jam ridden with layers so densely atmospheric that they find themselves lost amongst the repetition and whirling electronic background, “Horisont.” This song, as most all others on Retrospektiv, fails to identify Audionom as a unit influenced by one core movement or a band that plays to a general listener within a typical rock-based genre. Its music is far from aggressive compared to modern hard rock’s typical figureheads yet Retrospektivoffers a set that is increasingly unrelenting in its booming, progressive vision. And that in itself should entice new and old listeners alike to not only await, but crave whatever is to come from this distinct Scandinavian collective.

Smashing Pumpkins: Zeitgeist and the Band’s Attempt to Reclaim its Former Hipness

Finally catching up to the rumors that the band would reunite comes word that there would not only be a few festival dates but a new album, entitled Zeitgeist, set for release in July. But with only half of the original line-up in tact the band has received a number of criticisms as of late. Though I’d still probably consider the reunion successful without the inclusion of original bassist D’Arcy Wretzky - releasing new material under the moniker of Smashing Pumpkins without James Iha takes away much of the group’s luster. Melissa Auf der Maur has said that she’d partake in the group’s comeback as a stand-in bassist, just as she did for Wretzky after she left the group following the recording of Machina/Machine of the Gods. But with the current line-up there’s really little that separates the Pumpkins’ lineup from Zwan’s, which included Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and a few space-fillers (though one can assume they’re going to be talented space fillers).

That being said I’m still anticipating the release as it’s going to at least be average. If all else fails each member, past and present, have proven that at their lowest they are capable of solid music and I don’t see this situation as anything different. Zwan wasn’t amazing, nor did the group really live up to the hype surrounding its birth, but it wasn’t entirely bad either. And though it was torn to shreds by many critics, Corgan’s 2005 solo album TheFutureEmbrace was at times solid - boasting a few genuinely enjoyable tracks. If Auf der Maur were to rejoin the group, which is still up in the air as it has been rumored that former Jane’s Addition bassist Eric Avery has auditioned for the band, she too boasts a solid solo album that proved to many her musical capabilities.

I doubt that the album will be as bad as many think it will be, but if it is at least we still have Siamese Dream.

Goodbye Distillers, Hello Spinnerette

Even before The Distillers’ last album, Coral Fang, the band had been subject to a whirlwind of drama greatly surrounding the lead singer Brody Dalle. To make a long story short she divorced Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong in favor of Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and the two have since had a daughter. It seems Armstrong wasn’t the only one crushed in the wake of Dalle’s actions as The Distillers suffered as well.

Drummer Andy Granelli left the group in favor of Darker My Love and bassist Ryan Sinn chose to pursue the Tom DeLonge-fronted Angels and Airwaves leaving only Tony Bradley and Dalle remaining in the band. With the current state of things Dalle announced that the band would no longer go on but Bradley and Dalle would now go on as Spinnerette, which would also include “Wizard A” and Jon T Bonerham.

The Postmarks “The Postmarks” Review

Throughout the course of The Postmarks’ self titled debut the question of whether the group’s French-pop overtones are smoothly beautiful or agonizingly painful becomes an overt one. The vocals of singer Tim Yehezkely are so stunningly sweet that even the album’s most downtrodden of songs, such as “Leaves,” come off as something similar to pack of Sour Patch Kids laced with nicotine, sickly sweet though achingly addictive.

With the hope that the comparison doesn’t dissuade anyone The Postmarks seem like a pop-focused act inspired by the popularity of Norah Jones. On the same hand, the wicked reminiscence that occurs when listening to The Postmarks is something entirely different and refreshing. The group doesn’t leap into contemporary jazz nor does it suggest that there is a harder music bubbling below the surface of the album, waiting to be heard.

The previously mentioned French-pop suggestion is strongly heard in the album’s opening track, and first single, “Goodbye” as well as “Let Go.” But the group initially branded itself as something far more distinct with its remix EP that featured the tracks produced by Spookey Ruben, Brookville and James Iha. The downfall of the EP was that it suggested the group was something far from what they were. The EP attempted to deliver a more experimental brand of music while in fact The Postmark’s comfortable style is anything but.

As the song “Watercolors” uncoils “no umbrellas keep out this rain, no soft clouds cushion my pain,” the song suggesting that there is forever something deeper, something haunting within the music that never sees the light of day. That content discomfort allows the sound to convey itself so clearly, and throughout the clarity of the songs suggest that the band is as smoothly beautiful as it sounds.

Mastodon and Converge at First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)

2006 was an amazing year for the night’s three bands: Priestess broke out of its Québécois-hard rock niche and found a welcoming fan base internationally; longtime hardcore mainstays Converge took their sound and expanded its audience based on the heels of their acclaimed album No Heroes, an album which found praise from the likes of Pitchfork Media, Revolver and Drowned in Sound; and in 2006 an underground band from Atlanta released an album that many thought would be metal’s Nevermind, Mastodon’s Blood Mountain. Though it didn’t capture the same level of success as Nirvana found with its breakthrough release, it still helped broaden the band’s reach, resulting in a #32 debut position on the Billboard 200, a Grammy nomination and countless mentions on critics’ year end lists. To say the least, the night would be a good one for hard music.

Priestess took the stage to open the all-ages show with its powerful brand of hard rock with songs such as “Lay Down,” “Talk to Her” and the set closer, “I Am the Night, Colour Me Black.” All but one of the band’s songs came from the band’s album Hello Master, which had previously garnered the band the honor of Montreal’s Heaviest Act by the Montreal Mirror. Priestess took a while to warm the audience but slowly gained the crowd’s attention with its classic metal look and sound: tight jeans, extended riffs and drum solo interlude all intact.

There were a few in attendance who knew the band’s songs and sang along, headbanged or pumped fists, but the majority of the crowd was inactive during the band’s half-hour set. As lead singer Mikey Heppner mentioned the bill’s other acts, it became apparent that most weren’t in attendance to see Priestess. After the band blazed with the closer “I Am the Night,” the wait for Converge came to an end and the crowd began rumbling itself into a frenzy for what was to come.

The stage unveiled Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou playing alone as the crowd focused itself into the center of the floor and began to boil. The band eventually joined Ballou on the stage and began slaughtering their instruments as vocalist Jacob Bannon delivered a set of throaty, blood-curdling growls. Predominately playing songs from No Heroes, Jane Doe and You Fail Me, the crowd stayed energetic as Bannon spun around the stage, whipping his arms and legs around his body throughout the entire set.

As the crowd adjusted to the ever-fanatical show it became apparent why Converge, a band with its roots in ‘80s hardcore, had a place in what most would consider a metal gig. Throughout the night the pit’s inhabitants ranged from latino chic-sters to long-haired metalheads to aging emo-kids, and there within lies the sensibility of the band’s presence; as fans outgrow groups such as My Chemical Romance or Taking Back Sunday the natural progression is to gravitate towards a harder music, which leads one to suggest that Converge has recently succeeded amongst modern punk and metal bands due to this fanbase in transition. And if it takes a band like Converge to get emo kids to stop listening to the mainstream drivel with which they have all too often become associated, then so be it.

As the set came to an abrupt end the crowd again grew dense with anticipation, this time for the show’s headlining act, Mastodon.

Fans boomed in time with the heavy guitars, voicing the band’s lyrics as best they could and began squeezing toward the stage, edging inches closer to the now-celebrities that they had been waiting the entire night to see. Mastodon played a select few tracks from non-Blood Mountain albums, but eventually raised the musicianship of the evening with its performance of tracks from the band’s highest selling album, Leviathan. That being said it was the performance of some of the group’s latest songs that saw the greatest feedback from the crowd. As “The Wolf is Loose” picked up a pit began taking shape, with heads shaking out of control and hundreds of people swaying in motion. Other memorable tracks performed include “Circle Cysquatch” and “Colony of Birchmen,” but none received any greater of an unexpected reaction than “Bladecatcher.”

The track which finds itself as the most experimental on Blood Mountain takes shape with multiple time changes and direction shifts throughout, and it almost appeared as though the crowd didn’t know how to react to the Patton-esque song. “Bladebatcher” begins with an obscenely fast paced guitar jaunt and slowly peels away its own layers to reveal a mid-tempo rock jam before again diverting to the outer limits of musical exploration. The song that best proves characteristic of the set, however, may be “This Mortal Soil.” Roughly five minutes long, the song provides a driving progressive hook and utilizes the vocals of both bassist Troy Sanders and guitarist Brent Hinds. It has a brief introduction that reveals itself slowly, easing itself into the song rather than violently forcing itself on the listener. Therein lies the allure of Mastodon: one moment they play a track that could easily find itself in heavy rotation on modern rock radio, and the next they drive even their own fan base to cringe.

To the fans that insist on fist-pumping to each word of the song, to the fans who had seen Mastodon on MTV2 only to be taken back by Converge, and to the fans who beat their chests alongside the drummer, I say well done. Well done not simply because you have made sure that mainstream outlets have taken notice of these groups, but well done because now many more that had previously lived in the outskirts of pop music may be heard.

[This article first appeared on How Was The Show.]

Neo-Industrialism/Found Sound Part 2: David Fischoff

David Fischoff poses as a Chicago-based librarian by day, but with his latest album The Crawl, which has been a product of some five years of work, David has created an entire record’s worth of music from thousands of samples. Why it’s found music: As David described in an interview with Chicago Public Radio the album is a mixture of collected samples such as “whirling synth-tone, Atari sound effect, thin piano, trumpets, cheap plastic bass” combined with sounds made himself which include such unorthodox instruments as hockey pucks and wooden blocks. The result is a magnificent blend of what superficially sounds like ambient-based rock, but is much deeper far below its surface.

Menomena “Friend and Foe” Review

Whispering sweet nothings into the heart of indie darlings’ ears everywhere is Menomena, who have returned recently with a new album which follows the band’s string of unique success with 2005’s Under an Hour and 2003’s I Am the Fun Blame Monster! As a whole the album is a cluster, fueled by the band’s in-house computer program, Deeler, which has allowed the group the ability to fully penetrate the souls of their songs, shifting each towards over-layered musical outrageousness. All of which would be mildly obscene in the minds of indie’s off again, on again happy-go-lo-fi fanbase if only it weren’t so damned enjoyable to listen to.

The opening track, “Muscle ‘n Flow,” eases into itself as while developing a course drum track surrounded by a thicker guitar slicing exterior; all of which eventually give way to a fully integrated mixture of sax and piano hum. Again, if only it weren’t fantastic to listen to one would have to assume the sound to be a clouded mess if simply examining the song by its description. As you start to think about what it is you’ve just heard you begin to melt into the hypnotizing sounds that encase the air around you. Before long “Air Aid” fades out allowing one of the album’s strongest tracks “Weird” to seize the spotlight.

With Moog charming aesthetics and its tight lyrics the song drifts eerily without causing much distinction, which subsequently leads to key to Friend and Foe’s success. The song’s theme is based in finding common ground through brokenness, far from universal to the entire recording, and it delivers a backbone allowing the listener the ability to relate to the band, if even for only a moment.

This is what makes the album a success, Friend and Foe is a series of moments. Rather than an ongoing string of ideas or sounds, themselves elaborately melded to a point where they can only be enjoyed on a whole, each song offers a number of moments on its own which creates an environment difficult not to immediately return to the song that has just played. Each relies on such a unique breadth of character that they become hard to digest in a listen in the context of the entire album. Any number of bands would be seen as arrogant or imbalanced for undertaking such a session, but for Menomena it is seemingly just another moment in a young timeline that looks to have a wonderfully

Neo-Industrialism/Found Sound Part 1: Lasse Gjertsen

Lasse Jertsen is a twenty two year old film maker from Larvik, Norway who, among his other talents, has found a way of splicing his own sampled notes into songs. What’s amazing about the final product isn’t simply the fact that he can do so, but accompanying the tracks are video recordings, which are also spliced together; all of which create a stunning compliment to Lasse’s wonderful talents. Why it’s found music: Lasse can neither play the piano or drums, nor can he beat box, but his abilities to compound his strengths with his ingenuity leaves his audience truly blessed having just witnessed a digital art virtuoso.

I suggest checking the videos out before any audio to fully understand the genius of what Lasse is doing. In addition to “Amateur” and “Hyperactive” please head over to Lasse’s MySpace site to check out some of the short films he has made.

Menomena “Friend and Foe” Review

Whispering sweet nothings into the heart of indie darlings’ ears everywhere is Menomena, who have returned recently with a new album which follows the band’s string of unique successes with 2005’s Under an Hour and 2003’s I Am the Fun Blame Monster! As a whole the album is a cluster, fueled by the band’s in-house computer program, Deeler, which has allowed the group the ability to fully penetrate the souls of their songs, shifting each towards over-layered musical outrageousness. All of which would be mildly obscene in the minds of indie’s off again, on again happy-go-lo-fi fanbase if only it weren’t so damned enjoyable to listen to.

The opening track, “Muscle ‘n Flow,” eases into itself as while developing a course drum track surrounded by a thicker guitar slicing exterior; all of which eventually give way to a fully integrated mixture of sax and piano hum. Again, if only it weren’t fantastic to listen to one would have to assume the sound to be a clouded mess if simply examining the song by its description. As you start to think about what it is you’ve just heard you begin to melt into the hypnotizing sounds that encase the air around you. Before long “Air Aid” fades out allowing one of the album’s strongest tracks “Weird” to seize the spotlight.

With its charming Moog aesthetics and tight lyrics the song drifts eerily without causing much distinction, which subsequently leads to key to Friend and Foe’s success. The song’s theme is based in finding common ground through brokenness—far from universal to the entire recording—and it delivers a backbone allowing the listener the ability to relate to the band, if even for only a moment.

This is what makes the album a success, Friend and Foe is a series of moments. Rather than an ongoing string of ideas or sounds, themselves elaborately melded to a point where they can only be enjoyed on a whole, each song offers a number of moments on its own which creates an environment difficult not to immediately return to the song that has just played. Each relies on such a unique breadth of character that they become hard to digest in a listen in the context of the entire album. Any number of bands would be seen as arrogant or imbalanced for undertaking such a session, but for Menomena it is seemingly just another moment in a young timeline that looks to have a wonderfully unique future.