Friday, March 26, 2010

Music that's actually worth buying: Souleye - PPPPPP (Soundtrack to VVVVVV)

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Artist Website: Souleye

Track list:
00 - Pending Silence (0:02)
01 - Powerup (0:03)
02 - Presenting VVVVVV (2:40)
03 - Pause (0:08)
04 - Pushing onwards (3:39)
05 - Path complete (0:09)
06 - Passion for exploring (2:52)
07 - Positive force (2:48)
08 - Predestined fate (2:11)
09 - Phear (0:17)
10 - Potential for anything (3:43)
11 - Pressure Cooker (3:27)
12 - plenary (game complete jingle) (0:22)
13 - Pipe dream (2:22)
14 - Popular potpourri (6:09)
15 - Positive force reversed (2:48)
16 - Waiting for VVVVVV (0:56)

purchase link: [PPPPPP]

Welcome to another installment of a series I like to call "Music that's actually worth buying." Today I decided to feature the album PPPPPP, which is the soundtrack to indie video game VVVVVV. The artist's name is Magnus PĂ„lsson, but goes by the alias of Souleye.

I fell in love with video games long before I developed even a passing interest in music. By the time I turned three years old, I ate, breathed, and slept Nintendo. Nowadays, I feel like I've almost built up a tolerance for gaming, as it takes something really special to get me excited like I used to. Recently I started searching for smaller, low-budget indie games and came across VVVVVV, one of the most fun platformers I've played in a very long time. Not only was the game engaging, but the soundtrack was a blast to listen to as well. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only was the sountrack up for sale on the artist's website, but it was being offered at a very reasonable price!

I won't delve into the actual game this soundtrack complements, although at a price of $15, the game is well worth the purchase as well. The music is incredibly catchy and is guaranteed to bring out intense feelings of nostalgia in gamers who can remember when Sega made actual game consoles. The nice thing about PPPPPP is that even if you have never played the game, you'll still probably enjoy this album. This is a collection of some of the best chiptune songs I've ever heard, and at the criminally low purchase price of $4, you'd be crazy to pass this one up. If you are interested in listening through the album before you buy it, I found a channel on Youtube that has every single song on the album available as Youtube videos.

I have several favorite tracks on this album, with each one having a very different feel from the last. the song that plays during the opening title screen, Presenting VVVVVV is a very subdued tune, without a lot of complex melodies. However, the upper notes that start playing about a minute into the song take it to the next level (har har har). Pushing Onwards picks up the pace, while Passion For Exploring is often heard while the player is exploring the overworld within the game. However, I think my favorite tracks are Predestined Fate (numerous note runs building on top of a techno beat) or Potential For Anything.

If you are a fan of chiptune music, definitely give this a listen. If you are like me and love indie games or nostalgic 8-bit games, you must buy the game, then go buy the album. Together, it'll only set you back around $20.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dubmood - Atari-Ska L'Atakk

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Artist Website: Dubmood
Netlabel Website: Jahtari

Track list:

1 - Exodus Ska-Dub
2 - Kick De Bucket
3 - Monkey Island
4 - Pressure Drop
5 - VodSka-Dance
6 - YDbug CD197 (feat. Goto80)

Download links: [MP3] [Stream]

I know, it's not technically Friday anymore, but I haven't gone to bed yet, so it still counts! Anyways, on with the article.

Of all the netlabels I've discovered since I started searching the Internet for albums to feature in this blog, this one is definitely one of the stranger (and more fun) labels that I've come across. Jahtari features a wide variety of reggae-infused dub/chip/electronica music, and of the albums I listened to, none of them stood out to me more than Atari-Ska L'Atakk by Dubmood. Honestly, up until now the thought had never crossed my mind that combining chiptune music with ska would be feasible, much less enjoyable to listen to, but Atari showed me what a trip it could be.

I might be slightly biased in this case, since I love ska music and enjoy hearing music genres being blended, but I challenge anyone to listen to this album and tell me there wasn't at least one song on there that they didn't like.

As I mentioned above, Dubmood has taken the beeps and boops of traditional chiptune music and assembled them into 1st-wave ska tunes from well-known groups like The Skatalites and The Maytals. The first track takes a few seconds to get into the music, but once I heard the first upbeat "guitar" riff, I was ready to get right up out of my chair and skank along with it. Somehow, Dubmood was able to take the energy and overall feeling of fun that I associate with ska music and transplant it into his own symphony of electronic noises. Since traditional 1st-wave ska followed rather rigid guidelines, most of the songs have a very similar feel to one another, and that appears to be the case with Atari-Ska L'Atakk as well. While this isn't really a problem for me, it does make it harder to describe each track in detail. However, one thing that caught me by surprise was the Tetris theme contained within track 5, VodSka-Dance. Favorite tracks of the album for me were

Unless you hate ska or chiptune, I imagine that you'll enjoy listening through this album at least once (or, if you're like me, a dozen times). I've included a "Stream" link along with the download link at the top, click it to open up a new page with the Jahtari music player of this album.

Ohhh, I get it, Jahtari. Like, JAH and ATARI. Hehehehehe...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heart-Sick Groans - Gentlemen, If You Ain't Right, Get Right!

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Artist Website: Heart-Sick Groans at Myspace
Netlabel Website: unsigned

Track list:

1 - Three Day Blow
2 - Suddenly Molly
3 - In a Small Kitchen Song
4 - After Being Awake
5 - Streetlight Chase
6 - You Look Like Rain
7 - Why She Wanted to Stay at Home

Download links: [MP3, FLAC, and stream]

This week's album was brought to my attention from my good friend Dante over at All Around Sound. The name of the band is Heart-Sick Groans and their EP is entitled Gentlemen, If You Ain't Right, Get Right!

If I could sum up this album in only one word, it would probably be "charming." This is the kind of indie-pop you might expect to hear as the soundtrack of a feel-good teen movie like Juno, but the fact that it isn't attached to a movie or TV show shouldn't deter you from listening to it. The music is tight, and the melodies create a sort of musical river that I found easy to drift along with. That's one thing I really appreciate about music like this; whether you prefer to zone out while listening or pay close attention to the words and harmonies, you'll end up enjoying it either way.

The EP starts out on a happy guitar riff in Three Day Blow, which reminded me of lazy summer days. Suddenly Molly picks up the tempo slightly, and In a Small Kitchen Song raises the speed even more. However, at no point does the tempo of the music feel too frantic or out of control. The quality musicianship of the band members keeps the songs focused and flowing at the same time.

After Being Awake moves the music into a more ambient, shoegaze direction, using synthesizers and synthetic drum beats as opposed to the predominatly acoustic feel the album had up to that point. Streetlight Chase introduces a subdued horn section during portions of the song, while the vocals and guitars in You Look Like Rain brought to mind the works of George Harrison. The final song on the album is probably the most minimal in terms of instruments used and melodic variations, but in a way, it seems a fitting end to such a bright album.

This album was really tough for me to pick out a "favorite" track, because with most albums I'm immediately able to identify at least one or two tracks that I don't enjoy as much as the others. However, with this album, I enjoyed each track as much as the preceding one, and the songs flow so seamlessly into one another, that it almost seems wrong to place one on a higher level than the others. That, coupled with the fact that the EP barely breaks the fifteen minute mark means that you should listen through the whole album and decide for yourself. The album is available to download and stream from their Bandcamp page (which is linked to above).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shatner's Revenge - Nowhere's Ark

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Artist Website: Shatner's Revenge at Myspace
Netlabel Website: N.O.P. Records

Track list:

1 - Memory Is No Fun
2 - Ghosts
3 - Shawwty (Or Hip-Hop Called, He Sounded Mad)
4 - Nowhere's Ark
5 - BRAIN!!!
6 - 'Dear Boz'
7 - Sherlock
8 - Shat's Last Stand

Download links: [MP3 and stream]

I first came into contact with N.O.P. Records after discovering a musical project called Brother Against Brother, which was fronted by the label's creator, Boz. I talked with him several times via Myspace messaging, and he told me about his label that he was starting up. This was several months ago, and N.O.P Records has since released several albums (six are available for download at the time of this article). I haven't had the chance to listen to all of them yet, but one of the albums that I listened to and really enjoyed was Nowhere's Ark by ska/punk outfit Shatner's Revenge.

I was a little late to the party when it comes to discovering ska (My first exposure to the genre came in the form of Catch 22's sophmore album Alone in a Crowd), but from the get-go I loved what I was hearing. I'm always on the lookout for new talented ska groups, especially since the peak of the genre ended over a decade ago. However, bands like Shatner's Revenge prove that ska will never truly die as long as there are talented musicians who are dedicated to playing it.

One of the things I loved about this album was its ability to blend 2nd and 3rd wave ska in a single album. This is apparent right from the first song, Memory is No Fun. The beginning and end are characterized by the distorted strumming of punk-influenced 3rd wave ska, while the middle section could have been ripped directly from a 2nd wave band like The Specials or The English Beat. The interweaving of different ska styles show the listener how much these guys care about the genre, and it kept me engaged, wondering what kind of sound I'd hear on the next track.

I also really enjoyed the quality of the recording on this album. The guitar is loud and clear when distorted, and crisp and clean when playing the traditional "up-beat" ska riff. The horns sound great together, but are still able to be distinguished from one another. My only complaint is that the bass-end seemed a little to low for most of the album, which made it hard to hear the bass guitar (the instrument I've always considered to be the driving force of ska music).

For standout tracks, my favorites were the opener Memory is No Fun, and the album's title track, Nowhere's Ark.

It's been quite a while since I've found new ska music that's made me wanna stand up and skank while listening to it, but with Shatner's Revenge, that's no longer a problem.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music that's actually worth buying: Andrew Jackson Jihad - People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World

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Artist Website: Andrew Jackson Jihad

Track list:
1. Rejoice
2. Brave As a Noun
3. Survival
4. Bad Bad Things
5. No More Tears
6. Bells & Whistles
7. Randy's House
8. A Song Dedicated to the Memory of Stormy the Rabbit
9. People II: The Reckoning
10. Personal Space Invader
11 . People

purchase link: [Asian Man Records]

Let me start this entry off by saying that the album I'm about to talk about is NOT free. This is the first entry in a special series I'm calling "music that's actually worth buying". While I wholeheartedly support filesharing, I am not wholly opposed to purchasing music, especially when the price is right and/or the music is awesome. I figure that while there are tons of bands out there willing to give their music away for free, there are also some kick-ass bands out there who sell their music for next to nothing, and they deserve some exposure too. That being said, the first of these albums I'll be talking about is People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World by Andrew Jackson Jihad.

I'm honestly not sure how these guys managed to fly under my radar for so long, but a few months ago I finally stumbled upon Andrew Jackson Jihad through one of the labels they release material through, called Plan-It-X Records (I'll probably end up doing another installment of this series on that label). I picked up this album, gave it a listen, and instantly fell in love. One part folk, one part punk, and one part D.I.Y., these guys have a little bit of everything I look for in bands. I think it's great when a band can have over 2.5 million plays on, but they still play house parties.

To be honest, I was a little hesitant to feature this album since the purchase price is eight dollars (a little high for my tastes), but I figured eight bucks for an album isn't too bad considering how expensive most music is nowadays. While Andrew Jackson Jihad has several releases through Plan-It-X for five dollars per album, this album was released through Asian Man Records, hence the slightly higher price. ANYWAYS, let's talk about the music.

If you hold any sort of love for folk punk, then you don't need to read on, just go buy the album immediately. If you are unsure, the majority of songs feature acoustic guitar, upright bass, and either mandolin or banjo playing upbeat tunes with surprisingly dark lyrics. Subject matter includes rejoicing how the world will end up destroying you, Drug use, and describing the killing of an entire family. The juxtaposition of these lyrics with the frantic, fast-paced folk tunes is quite an interesting and pleasing mixture, and I think this band pulls it off beautifully. For those of you who require incredibly high production values in your music, you might be disappointed by the overall lo-fi feel of the album, but it works with this genre of music, and shouldn't be a complete deterrent.

My favorite track on the album is definitely Brave as a Noun, even though it is one of the shortest songs on the record. I love the melody and rhythm, and the lyrics are great too:

I’ve got an angry heart
Filled with cancers and poppy tarts
If this is how you folks make art it’s fucking depressing...

If you happen to find an extra eight dollars you're itching to spend, I'd recommend this album. If you'd like to preview a few tunes, here's a video from one of their live shows, playing the first two songs from this album.