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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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.