Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blog update

Just a quick update to the ten or twelve of you who actually read this blog. I'll be traveling for the holidays and won't be adding any new entries until I return, which will be shortly after the new year.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo - Phobiaphilia EP

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo on Myspace
Netlabel Website: Copyleft Records

Track list:

1 - Bookend I (In The Beginning)
2 - Mayfly Life
3 - Fuck!
4 - All In This Together Now
5 - Hey Luanne
6 - Three Wonderful Nights
7 - Bookend II (In The End)

Download links: [MP3] [FLAC] [Torrent]

I have a love/hate relationship with singer-songwriters. On the one hand, any idiot can pick up a guitar, learn three chords and write a sappy love song. It's artists like these that make me want to recreate the infamous guitar stairway scene from Animal House. On the other hand, some of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard have come from singer-songwriters. Strangely enough, some of these talented artists don't utilize anything more complicated than the aforementioned three chords, and if they can make it work that way, then why add more? Such is the case of Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo and his debut record, Phobiaphilia EP.

The record consists of Byron Hulcher (the real name of Buffalo x 3) by himself, singing and playing his acoustic guitar. The music is a cross between the acoustic melodies of traditional singer-songwriters and the frantic strumming traditionally found in punk rock. In fact, Mr. Hulcher has said that he drew the inspiration for this album from listening to Plan-It-X records (a label that produces similar music). While some may initially think that the lack of backing instruments might leave a punk rock outfit sounding rather bare, in this instance it works beautifully. Each song tells a different story of love, loss, and hope, and the single acoustic guitar is more than enough to carry the message home to the listeners.

The opening and closing tracks (Bookend I (In The Beginning) and Bookend II (In The End)) aren't the strongest on the album, but are quite fitting considering their names. Each of the following songs deal with specific topics that all teens worry about and some actually experience. Mayfly Life discusses HIV, Fuck! is obviously about teenage anger and feeling isolated and alone, while All In This Together Now is about sticking with those close to you and persevering through good times and bad. Hey Luanne deals with teen pregnancy, and Three Wonderful Nights touches on drug use.

There are many reasons why people might not enjoy this album as much as I did, like Byron's voice, the fast-paced guitar riffs, or the subject material, but I fell in love with this album from the first listen. I can't tell you if the experiences the singer talks about really happened to him, but he performs them in such an honest way that I'd be shocked if they didn't. Here's to hoping that Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo decides to release a full-length in the future, and that it maintains the bare-bones, honest feel of Phobiaphilia EP.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Electric Sea Spider - The Thief

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Electric Sea Spider at Myspace
Netlabel Website: Mine, All Mine! Records

Track list:

1 - Rico's Theme
2 - And Start West
3 - The Looming Alleys
4 - Chinatown
5 - Snowfield
6 - Augustus Sebastian The Murderer
7 - Stethoscope
8 - Tear
9 - Arrowfrog
10 - Yolk (Cut Up Sounds From '66)
11 - Rubik's Cube
12 - Mollusk

Download links: [Torrent] [MP3] [FLAC]

"Electric Sea Spider makes his long-awaited return to mam!records with this amazing set of electronic tracks. Often mixing trip-hop, ambient and idm sounds, Electric Sea Spider has created an album that will keep you hitting repeat." -Blog entry from Mine, All Mine! Records

The Thief is the 93rd album released from veteran netlabel Mine, All Mine! Records, and the third release on said netlabel from Electric Sea Spider. As always, I approach any music labeled "Electronic" with a little apprehension due to my lack of exposure to it, but in this case, Electric Sea Spider has met and exceeded my expectations.

The album starts off fittingly enough with Rico's Theme, which is what I assume to be the "trip-hop" mentioned in the MAM blog description (I can't say for certain because I've never really listened to trip-hop, but if that's what this track is, then I like it). And Starts West is a little more familiar with what I've come to know as IDM from artists such as Xihilisk and Aphex Twin. While the percussion beat is quite impressive on this track, the floating, ethereal harmonies from above really give the piece direction.

The Looming Alleys might be my favorite track on the album. Certain songs such as this one have a way of completely taking me out of my element and transporting me to another plane of consciousness. I'm not sure exactly what distinguishes tracks such as this one from others like it, but I always appreciate finding a gem like this on a new album.

Chinatown utilizes some interesting choices of vocal sampling, while Snowfield relies on its engaging piano melodies rather than the traditional heavy percussion to provide the foundation for the song.

The rest of the album is just as much fun to listen to as the first half which I described, and although I am the type of person to usually skip around songs to find the ones I like, I didn't feel the need to do that at all with this album. Electric Sea Spider's The Thief is another wonderful example of the electronic genre, and a great album to listen to in almost any setting. A great work for newcomers and veterans of the genre alike.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Stagedivehighfive - Everybody Has Their Highs And Lows

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Stagedivehighfive at Myspace
Netlabel Website: Nite Owl Records

Track list:

1 - I Love You
2 - She Dumped Me..Finally
3 - Tragedies Happen
4 - Wreck Da Couch
5 - I Eat Bitches for Breakfast, Bitch
6 - Bloody Monsters

Download links: [MP3] [Stream]

Along with my woeful ignorance of IDM/electronica music until recently, I was also unaware that there were musicians out there making 8-bit music (think original Nintendo game soundtracks). Apparently this is not a rare occurrence either, as the act of using gaming sound chips to make music is big enough to warrant its own genre: Chiptune. While there are netlabels out there with their entire catalog being made up of nothing but chiptune music (and I'll probably touch on some of them in the future), today I focused my attention on the newly formed Nite Owl Records and their first proper release, Everybody Has Their Highs And Lows by Stagedivehighfive.

While this music may not appeal to everybody (I find it hard to envision drunken fratboys cruising the town with this blasting in their car speakers), I find it strangely charming. It might have something to do with my long history with Nintendo systems, but each track I listen to makes me nostalgic for classic gaming. For example, when I being listening to She Dumped Me..Finally, it immediately brings to mind the training sequence of the classic NES boxing title "Punch-Out".

This music is not all about the nostalgic factor though. If you sit and really listen to each track from start to finish, you'll hear a multitude of 8-bit noises being used as building blocks to construct each song. These songs can get extremely intricate, not only in song structure, but also in the number of noises utilized and how they are layered into the music.

While a few of the tracks such as Bloody Monsters and Wreck Da Couch have openings that are slightly grating and might deter casual listeners, other tracks like Tragedies Happen are incredibly easy on the ears and might actually bring a smile to your face (in fact, I'd go so far as to say the aforementioned Tragedies Happen is so well constructed that it could have easily been utilized in a video game soundtrack of the era).

If you've never listened to any chiptune music (or if, like me, you had no idea that it was even a musical genre), I'd say Stagedivehighfive is a great jumping-off point for people looking to get deeper into the genre. Go download the album, or if you would like to listen to it before you download it, click the button above listed [Stream].

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chef-Special - Hungry (EP)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Chef Special Music
Netlabel Website: Unsigned

Track list:

1 - Colors
2 - Streetlight
3 - Slowdown
4 - Deadline (bonus)

Download links: [MP3 and FLAC]

I've taken the last few days off from blogging to really build up a list of talented artists, and I thought I'd start off with a wonderful hip-hop group from the Netherlands who call themselves Chef'Special. Their sound is very similar to the well-known instrumental hip-hop group from Geneva, New York, Gym Class Heroes. The fact that Chef'Special is based out of the Netherlands should not be a deterrent for anyone who is a fan of alternative hip-hop, or even those of you who normally turn your noses up at the sound of rap music.

Musically, the instrumentation on these tracks is incredibly tight. You can tell that the band put a lot of care into crafting their EP, and it definitely shows. Each track has a unique sound to it that really makes it stand out from the others (for example, the opening track Colors has a funky feel to it while Slowdown begins by showing the spirit of second-wave ska).

The lyrics, however, don't move me quite as much as their melodies do. You can click the song names on their bandcamp page (link at the top of the review) for the words to that particular song and judge for yourself, but personally I prefer a little more depth with this style of music.

Despite their possible shortcomings lyrically, the EP is still definitely worth a listen, if for nothing else than the groovy instrumentation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kudrow - Lando

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Kudrow
Netlabel Website: Quote Unquote Records

Track list:

1 - Commutilation!
2 - Blink-182 Reunion
3 - Favreau
4 - Brooklyn Pool

Download links: [MP3]

Listening to the debut 7" Lando from Jeff Rosenstock's new side project Kudrow is a slightly surreal experience for me. While the vocals are obviously reminiscent of Bomb the Music Industry!, the tone of the guitars and overall feel of the music makes me feel like I'm listening to a late-70's/early-80's punk band. The best analogy I can make think of is to imagine Jeff Rosenstock fronting a reformed Dead Kennedys.

Personally, I find the low-fi, old school sound of the EP quite refreshing and entertaining. As always, Rosenstock has boundless energy right out of the gate. From the initial line of "An eleven foot cluster lacking the camaraderie communities foster and the breakbeat drumbeat bleakly repeats our bleating, "I GIVE NOTHING! I ASK FOR EVERYTHING!"", the listener is swept along, tapping their toe, dancing, or doing whatever it is that they do to feel the music.

Since there are only four tracks on the album, it's tough to choose a standout track (not to mention they are all quite good). That being said, The first track, Commutilation! is definitely a fast, fun opening to the record. The next track dials it back a bit, but the opening guitar riff is catchy enough to keep the listener hooked. The lyrics of Favreau are my favorite of the four tracks, and the final track Brooklyn Pool sounds like it was ripped right from Weezer's Green Album.

If you are a fan of Jeff Rosenstock and his various bands, this is a definitely must have. If you haven't listened to him before or you don't care for ASoB or BTMI!, I'd still recommend giving this one a listen, since it is different enough from his main material to warrant a listen from haters.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Deathalizer - It Dwells Within

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Deathalizer (Bandcamp)
Netlabel Website: None

Track list:

1 - The Angel's Fall
2 - Suicide Lane
3 - Crawling Back In
4 - Crumbs From The Sky
5 - More Than Gone
6 - It Dwells Within

Download links: [FLAC and MP3]

I've never really considered myself a "metal head", although I do follow quite a few metal bands. While I'm not as big into Metallica as some of my friends, I understand the impact that they had on the metal genre, and I can identify them through their sound, which is very specific to their band. That being said, I had to double check the name of Deathalizer to be sure that I wasn't mistakenly listening to a Metallica album. The lead singer of Deathalizer sounds almost exactly like James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica, and while that isn't necessarily a detriment to this group's sound, it is almost impossible to not draw the correlation between the two.

Similarites to Metallica aside, It Dwells Within is quite a good album, provided that you have a strong interest in, or can at least stomach thrash metal. I can't really say that I found a stand-out track on this album, because songs in this genre tend to blend together for me (like I said, I'm not a metal head). However, I did enjoy the EP, brief as it was. The band's website is a Bandcamp page, meaning you can stream the whole album straight from your browser to see if you like it enough to download it. If you do, just click the download button and enter in a dollar amount (don't worry, you can put in zero dollars).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bomb the Music Industry! - Album Minus Band

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Bomb the Music Industry! on Myspace
Netlabel Website: Quote Unquote Records

Track list:

1 - Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV!!!
2 - Does Your Face Hurt? No? 'Cause It's Killin' Me!!!
3 - It Ceases To Be "Whining" If You're Still "Shitting Blood"
4 - Big Plans of Sleeping In
5 - I'm A Panic Bomb, Baby!
6 - Sweet Home Cananada
7 - Funcoland vs. The Southern Electorate
8 - Ready... Set... No!!!
9 - "I'm Too Cooooool For Music"
10 - Pike St. - Park Slope (by Harvey Danger)
12 - Future 86

Download links: [MP3]

I'm a big fan of albums that can hook me right from the first song. Granted, that doesn't mean that I rely solely on the opening track to determine whether or not I'm going to enjoy it, but if the band can grab my attention that early on, there's a good chance that I'll stick around to listen to the rest of the album. That is precisely the case with DIY legends Bomb the Music Industry! and their debut album, Album Minus Band. From the first second of the opening track Blow Your Brains Out On Live TV!!!, you know exactly what you're in for. BTMI! is fast, dirty ska-punk, and while I understand that that type of music might not appeal to you, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for ska, as well as groups that truly embrace the spirit of DIY.

Several tracks utilize sound clips from various pop-culture outlets, such as a "Shaun of the Dead" quote at the beginning of Big Plans of Sleeping In and a bit of stand-up from comedian David Cross at the start of Sweet Home Cananada. What really intrigues me is the extent that Jeff Rosenstock (founder of BTMI!) takes the idea of DIY while recording his albums. For example, the song Sweet Home Cananada was apparently recorded using a built-in microphone on his computer.

There's really not much else to say about this album without delving into the background of the band, or their impact on free digital music (perhaps a future blog post?), so I'll finish with a few standout tracks on the album. Obviously the opening track is a good one, as well as I'm a Panic Bomb, Baby! and Ready... Set... No!!!

If you are interested at all in the free distribution of digital music (and judging from the fact that you're reading this right now, I'll guess that you probably are), do yourself a favor and look into these guys, as well as Rosenstock's label Quote Unquote Records. Whether you like their sound or not, Bomb the Music Industry! is a shining example of how you don't need to "sell records" in order to develop a highly devoted fan base around the world, and perhaps by listening to this album you might find out why.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Xihilisk - Instruction Manuals for Impossible Machines

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Xihilisk on Myspace
Netlabel Website: CXCRSIX

Track list:

1 - IDMisdead
2 - Sleep Patterns
3 - Argonaut
4 - Bloodshot
5 - Cocodamol
6 - Venice is Burning
7 - Aurora Rework
8 - Suitable For Vegetarians

Download links: [MP3]

Less than a year ago, I was under the impression that the electronic genre was made up of nothing more than obnoxious bass beats that were repeated ad nauseum over gigantic woofers in clubs. Then I discovered an electronic artist by the name of Xihilisk and a little "best of" compilation he had put together called FUCK THE RIAA! Seeing as I have no love for the RIAA, the title immediately grabbed my attention, and thought that since Xihilisk was kind enough to release his music for free I'd give it a listen (even though I wasn't expecting much).

The first track on the album was titled Argonaut, and to this day remains one of my all-time favorite electronic tracks. I did some scrounging around on the Internet but couldn't seem to find a public copy of FUCK THE RIAA!, so I decided to review another album which features Argonaut, Instruction Manuals for Impossible Machines.

This album really does run the gamut of emotions, starting with a jazzy feel in IDMisdead, and moving to an ethereal realm of electric guitars in Sleep Patterns. I realize that Argonaut is not going to be everyone's favorite track, but for me it holds that special moment of realization for me that just because some music is created digitally doesn't mean it can't be really good and stir powerful emotions in its listeners. For me, that track brings out a powerful feeling of wandering and loneliness, although I assume it'll be different for every listener. The rest of the album continues to delight as well, although starts to delve off into experimental with tracks like Venice is Burning and Suitable For Vegetarians. This is no problem for me personally, since it reminds me of the work of Buckethead, one of my favorite artists.

Overall, Instruction Manuals for Impossible Machines is a solid electronic album, and if you haven't given electronic or IDM a chance, check it out, you might actually be surprised like I was. All of Xihilisk's records are available on his myspace page via a blog entry, and you can also check out his netlabel which features other great artists by the link at the top of this post.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Isaac Graham - Empty Vessels

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Artist Website: Isaac Graham at Myspace
Netlabel Website: Copyleft Records

Track list:

1 - Photographs and Histories
2 - Gold And Steel
3 - Karl Marx And The Reds
4 - This Old Town
5 - Empty Vessels
6 - Superglue
7 - Columbus
8 - Heat Exhaustion
9 - Hurricane
10- When I Find Gold

Download links: [MP3] [FLAC]

Australian singer-songwriter Isaac Graham is the perfect example of exactly why you don't need a major record deal or fancy recording studio to make wonderful music. Using only a Tascam 8-Track recorder and a "cheap microphone", Isaac has created one of the best folk-rock albums I've heard in a long time. The closest comparison I can draw for his music is Frank Turner, and considering that Frank has a real record deal and a professional recording space, I think it's amazing that I'm able to make that comparison at all.

Right from the first track Photographs and Histories, Mr. Graham draws the listener in with a gentle acoustic guitar riff and his lovely vocals. Gradually throughout the song, the momentum builds as more instruments are added and doesn't drop at all (I had no idea there were that many words that end with "ees"). While there are definitely some rockers on the album (Karl Marx and the Reds, ironically enough, brought to mind Paul McCartney's Снова в СССР album), the majority of the album is perfect for fans of traditional folk music.

My favorite track of the album is definitely This Old Town, the perfect blend of hard and soft. The song keeps up at a great pace and refuses to lose energy, the lyrics are superb, and when the chorus comes in, the song actually seems to grow stronger every time.

At the time of this writing, Isaac has agreed to sign on to netlabel Copyleft Records, and although his artist page is not currently active, the download links for his album work just fine, and can be found at the start of this review. I eagerly look forward to hearing more from Isaac, and highly recommend anyone who even remotely enjoys acoustic/folk/rock music or Australian accents to give this album a listen.

An introduction

Hello friends and music lovers. Welcome to Music Industry Earthquake, my little blog devoted to spotlighting independent musicians and bands who are signed to netlabels and/or give their music away for free.

I decided to start this blog because free digital music is something that I am fiercely passionate about, and there are too many misinformed people out there who think that music cannot exist if there isn't a price tag attached to it. Through starting my own netlabel, I discovered a treasure trove of music that was previously unknown to me, being given away freely by artists creating simply for the joy and pleasure of it. I was amazed that some albums (recorded from somewhere no fancier than a living room) sounded on par, if not better, than professionally recorded albums by major label artists.

What I'm hoping to accomplish from this blog (at least at first) is a new album description/review two or three times a week (at least when time permits), and occasionally I might throw in a personal blog entry on current events involving the music industry.

Music has become a commodity rather than an art, and nothing would make me happier than to see the music industry leveled, with the major labels being brought down to the ground (hence the name of the blog).

Anyways, here's to hoping that you find some new, interesting music through this blog, and if you happen to really enjoy what you hear, find a way to donate to the artists! They are good enough to give their art away for free, and deserve every penny they can get.

Joe Pow