Showing posts with label post-rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label post-rock. Show all posts

Monday, March 25, 2019

video review: 'american football (2019)' by american football

So yeah, this won't get controversial, not one bit...

So not sure what might wind up next on the schedule after Billboard BREAKDOWN - could well be Resonators, given how my schedule is mutating - but stay tuned all the same!

album review: 'american football (2019)' by american football

I think there's a lot of people who forget that emo was a thing in the 90s.

Now granted, this was material I had to rediscover years later - I certainly wasn't that cool when I was eight or nine - but if you were in the right circles there was a vibrant reinvention going on after the genre kind of went quiet at the end of the 80s, and by the end of the 90s, the genre was on the cusp of a mainstream breakthrough... from a certain point of view. And that was the funny thing: for every band like Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids and Dashboard Confessional actually moving units, there was still a thriving underground that was pushing the sound and scope of emo into more artistic directions, usually with inroads into the indie rock and college rock scenes. Many of these acts would lay the foundation for third-wave emo today... and in the midst of all of this in 1999, a band called American Football released a self-titled album. Now keep in mind that you could track the evolution and growth of emo just through certain members of the band - frontman Mike Kinsella was a founding member of Cap'n'Jazz who also put out one seminal full-length album before falling apart - but American Football was different if only because the ideas felt less organized, pulling from post-rock and free jazz and a windswept tone that lacked the immediacy of most midwestern emo, but remained as compelling. 

And as such, the alchemy was not built to last - after one album that was destined to become a cult classic, the band broke up and went on to various scattered directions both in and out of music... so fast forward to 2014, the self-titled album is reissued, and fans lose their shit, especially when there are hints that the band is reuniting. And to pretty much everyone's shock, not only did it happen they actually released an album in 2016, a second self-titled project right in the middle of the third-wave they inspired. And... well, it was good - not quite great but it never needed to be, a more rounded and accessible reunion that owes a little too much to Kinsella's long-running solo project Owen that had enough to hit the nostalgia centers of all the old fans of the first American Football album who settled down, got jobs, had kids, and put their yearning in the closet.

So I'd argue I was more surprised that American Football were putting out an album this year - it makes sense that the band would want to see more from their critical resurgence and a cult fanbase, but you can only milk nostalgia for so long. So with that in mind, what did we get from the third self-titled album from American Football?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

video review: 'nearer my god' by foxing

Yeah, I'm a little stunned I wound up liking this as much as I do... but yeah, it gets there SO well, and though late I'm happy I covered it - enjoy!

album review: 'nearer my god' by foxing

So over the past few months I think some folks have gotten the impression that I've been more harsh or negative than usual - and while it's true that I've found less albums that I'd say are easy fits for the best of 2018, let's flip the script a little bit and talk about a trend in indie rock that I've actually come to like a fair bit. See, as a part of the success of the third wave of emo in the 2010s, over the past few years we've seen an expanded wave of rock artists dig deeper into raw, emotive territory but harness a little bit more maturity and poise, splitting the difference between over-educated detachment and the painful realization so much of that will not save them anymore - don't look at me like that, we all get to that age!

And make no mistake, this is a thematic trend that might have been primed by the third wave of emo, but it's bled enough into indie rock and alternative rock that it's hard to not think the pretentious coffeehouse hipsters of the early 2010s are having midlife crises, from the wine-soaked breakdowns of the older guard like Josh Tillman and Matt Berninger to the over-educated angst of Will Toledo to the palpable angst of Deaf Havana and The Wonder Years. And somewhere in the middle, inhabiting an intricate blend of post-hardcore rage, post-rock atmospherics, and indie rock meticulousness, we have Foxing. And honestly, I should have tackled this band months ago, because from the reckless, ramshackle howling of their debut The Albatross in 2013 to the more intricate and reserved fragmentation of Dealer two years later, Foxing were definitely inhabiting this lane, and with their third album Nearer My God primed to blow everything up on steroids with their longest and most explosive project to date, I definitely wanted to take this in, so what did we get?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

video review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

So this review was incredibly frustrating to put together, but overall a welcome reminder to do your fucking research before you put out a loaded statement in a review. Either way, enjoy!

album review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

I remember where I was when I reviewed New Bermuda - and when I say that I'm referring to my position with respect to black metal. Sure, I had done some of my research to familiarize myself with the trends in the genre, but I still felt very much like I was on the outside looking in, the hipster music critic using a band like Deafheaven for his inroads into the larger genre but getting scared off when it got too real...

And yet that didn't happen, and while I still wish I could find more black metal records to cover here, I'll freely admit my personal preferences within the genre have deepened and matured in the past three years - not the point where I'll outright dismiss the success Deafheaven has found in taking atmospheric black metal to a larger audience, but to me they've never risen past being just a gateway act. In fact, I'll be blunt: outside of maybe the occasional cut from Sunbather, I haven't really revisited Deafheaven in a long time, and I certainly wouldn't put them up against stronger material from the black metal that's made my year end lists the past three years. But on a similar note, I'm not really about to dismiss Deafheaven either - yeah, frontman George Clarke has not endeared himself to me whatsoever in some of his comments off the mic, but at their best Deafheaven can tap into the soaring crescendos and high points that drew me to atmospheric black metal in the first place, and where New Bermuda stumbled was trying to simultaneously double down on the heaviness and brighter rock segments where the clash felt discordant. So when I heard that Ordinary Corrupt Human Love was heading back in the direction of Sunbather to re-embrace their prettier atmospherics, I was actually looking forward to how this could turn out, especially as the band can be pretty intriguing on a lyrical level as well. So alright, what did we get from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

video review: 'slowdive' by slowdive

So this... okay, I wish I really liked this more. It's not bad, I see the appeal, but honestly, shoegaze just isn't really my thing, sort of like a lot of death metal and reggae. Eh, okay.

But beyond that, I've got a movie review on its way, so stay tuned!

album review: 'slowdive' by slowdive

Do you ever have the feeling like you may have gotten into certain genres the 'wrong way'? 

I know, there's never any one right way to experience art - most people rarely hit the clean entry point into more obscure or indie genres and it's always a bit of search, but there is a part of me that feels I've only ever approached shoegaze completely wrong. Part of this is because I feel I jumped past the genre into atmospheric black metal and blackgaze, which means going back to these spacier, lighter tones just leaves me feeling underwhelmed. I get the appeal, believe me, but I'm going to listen to this sort of atmospheric, dream-like music, I tend to prefer a bit more muscle and backbone behind it, and from the shoegaze I've heard, I haven't exactly found it captivating. Even approaching it from ambient music... it made a little more sense, but my experience with ambient music has been more on the experimental side, and thus a lot of more conventional-sounding shoegaze just didn't grab my ear. Coupled with much of it feeling underwritten, for the most part I was comfortable saying it just wasn't for me.

But at the same time I didn't want to write off the entire genre without giving it a fair chance, so when the long-awaited comeback record from shoegaze/dream-pop group Slowdive showed up on my schedule, I did want to make an effort to explore it... albeit a few months later when the pressure had died down. So I took my time, went through the back catalog... and look, I don't know what to tell you, it's pleasant music but it just didn't really stick with me. Some of the melodies on Souvlaki were good, and I found some of the ambient electronics on Pygmalion intriguing, but beyond that... not much that really grabbed me. But hey, it's been over twenty years since that record, maybe in the mean time all of the band's experiences would add up to this comeback project being solid?

Monday, April 10, 2017

video review: 'winter' by fen

So I'm actually stunned this went over as well as it did - and not just the review, I'm actually pretty damn proud of how the thumbnail turned out for my first real try at photoshop. 

But it won't be my last tonight, so stay tuned!

album review: 'winter' by fen

You know, at some point I'm going to just admit I'm not sure where to look when it comes to finding consistent black metal recommendations. I mean, I try to keep my ear to the ground, but for multiple years in a row now I feel like whenever I find a record that's more on the atmospheric side of the genre it's damn near a miracle, and thus wind up covering a lot less than I'd otherwise like. 

But in this case it looks like I'm not quite as behind as expected - and I was a little stunned how many Patreon votes this got once I added it - so let's talk about Fen. They're an English black metal act that started in the mid-2000s, straddling the line with progressive metal and post-rock and drawing more than a few comparisons to Wolves In The Throne Room and Agalloch. They play on the more nakedly melancholic side of the spectrum in comparison with the soaring power of acts like Saor or Panopticon, more moody and bleak, but there's different shades of that, some that get into thicker, muddier textures that seethe off of subtle rumblings of bass, while later cuts on records like Carrion Skies get a little more ethereal and spacious, looking to pull the listener deeper into the seething darkness. That's not saying they're all atmospherics - Fen is certainly capable of ramping up the riffs - but in revisiting their back catalog I did find myself wishing a little that they would crank up the texture or intensity a bit to match their frontman's distinctive howl, maybe push the dynamics a little harder. Still, that's nitpicking across four pretty distinct records, taking an established compositional structure and refining and expanding it with each release. And considering their production has only gotten sharper and I was in the mood for some black metal comfortable pushing into new territory, I decided to check out their newest record Winter - how is it?

Monday, January 30, 2017

video review: 'dear avalanche' by lights & motion

Man, I was so hoping this record would be so much better... eh, it happens, I guess, but still painfully disappointing. Gah.

Next up, though, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'dear avalanche' by lights & motion

So here's the truth of it: for as much post-rock as I've heard, I tend to like the genre... but I also don't tend to seek it out that much.

And I'm not really sure why that is. Yeah, I don't deny that some of it is because if I'm going to be listening to this sort of atmospheric, blurred over melodic rock tones I might as well take that next step and listen to black metal, but the truth runs a little more complicated than that. For one, a lot of the post-rock I've tended to hear doesn't have a lot of lyrics, and I've been well-known for citing that as a big factor behind a lot of my favourite music. But it also ties back to that for as much post-rock as I've heard, a lot of it starts to blur together, more than it otherwise should. I like the tones, I like the renewed focus on melody, I really like the commitment to crescendos and musical dynamics... but beyond that, a lot of these pieces don't tend to hook me as deeply as I would like.

So take Lights & Motion, for instance. This is a Swedish post-rock act, the solo project of Christoffer Franzén, and it's known for a certain cinematic swell and scope. And from the brighter guitar-driven tones of his debut in 2013 with Reanimation to the piano-driven Save Your Heart to the more lush and orchestral Chronicle in 2015, it was easily some of the prettiest and most serene post-rock I've ever heard - it's no surprise it's been picked as backing orchestration for a lot of modern TV and movie projects. But on some level that might be part of the issue - Lights & Motion make music that generally sounds appealing but doesn't exactly have a distinctive tone and feel beyond a couple of obvious comparison points to Explosions In The Sky - which yes, makes it ideal for advertising, but that financial blessing can also be a hidden curse. And yet thanks to Patreon the newest project Dear Avalanche wound up on my schedule, with buzz suggesting more strings textures to be shift and changed, along with more vintage synthesizers. And this raised some mixed feelings for me: I don't mind cooler synths, but Save Your Heart was easily the softest work this guy has put out by playing to that piano mold, and that type of melancholy can run out of steam quick in my books. But whatever, I was curious to hear more, so how was Dear Avalanche?

Monday, March 14, 2016

video review: 'mystical future' by wildernessking

Goddamn, I need to keep remember to cross-post the video to here, this is happening more than it should.

Okay, (finally) Anna Meredith and Flatbush Zombies, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

album review: 'mystical future' by wildernessking

So one of my personal resolutions for this year is that I'd make time to cover more black metal I found a lot to really like last year and Panopticon's Autumn Eternal landed on my year end list for my top albums of 2015...

And thus far, I've been failing miserably. To be somewhat fair to myself, it's not like I've seen or heard about much in this genre that's gotten waves of critical acclaim - my general sources have been pretty dry here - but I also don't think I've put in enough due diligence to cover the acts that have gotten a little hype. So as before with Vallendusk, I looked up the one guy I trust on YouTube to mention some interesting black metal - that'd be Myke C-Town - and saw that he had covered the sophomore release from South African band Wildernessking, so after seeing how much praise their 2012 debut The Writing Of Gods In The Sand received, I decided to give it a shot.

And wow, I'm glad I did. I'll admit I don't always have the best frame of references when it comes to black metal and I can't quite say I was immediately wowed by Wildernessking as I was by the insane riffing of Vallendusk or the genre-bending of Panopticon or the weird avant-garde tendencies of Wolves In The Throne Room or the progressive touches of In The Woods..., but there was something subtle about Wildernessking that really sucked me in. Atmospheric touches that recall post-rock, riffing and grooves that had touches of post-hardcore but still had enough grime and intensity to fit within black metal, and enough focus on melody to really stick with me. Plus - and I'll wholeheartedly admit it's inconsequential but a great touch regardless - they actually posted their lyrics, which considering how deeply they buried their vocals was a real plus. So with the knowledge that their sophomore album was going to be going even harder, I picked up Mystical Future, looking forward to five songs of blisteringly potent black metal - did I get it?

Friday, March 4, 2016

video review: 'i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it' by the 1975

I'm amazed this review hasn't been torn to shreds yet, even though it is more positive. Ah well, goes to serve what my presumptions will be.

Next up... probably Santigold or LMNO or Mount Moriah... but who am I kidding, that Kendrick release is definitely coming, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

album review: 'i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful and yet so unaware of it' by the 1975

There's been a thinkpiece making its rounds on a few music websites questioning the continued viability of the album review, or at least the written album review. Where it was once something that could influence audiences or artists or even drive sales, many major publications have seen in the rise of the internet consumers who care less about critics and more about being guided by their own taste, the democracy of public opinion. Now this is very much a mixed blessing: on the one hand it's seen the embrace and re-analysis of pop music, giving real critical consideration to what was usually derided... but you could also argue that unless the critic has a large enough following, it's not going to help the independent, weirder acts that used to rely on a review to break out. What's more concerning is that it's seen the lines between criticism and promotion blur, especially when sites and channels rely on hits to stay afloat, and it's also led me as a critic to reassess what my role as a critic can be. And in this case, it's twofold: operating as a filter to all the acts I hear throughout the year, especially in my recommendations; and providing as much in-depth analysis as I can to improve the quality of individual reviews. 

And yet no act has so divided traditional critics and the general public as The 1975, and I think I can explain why. When I covered their debut album in 2013, I was like many critics in identifying their blatant 80s influences and self-aware self-absorption that was balanced on the edge of emo - in other words, shallow, derivative, and kind of insufferable. And yet I was also like a lot of their diefans in not really caring all that much, or at least more able to relate, mostly because the group had a gift for gleaming, slightly offkilter riff-driven hooks, great basslines and saxophone, with a distinctive vocal delivery from Matthew Healy and lyrics that had a surprising amount of insight if you read between the lines. In other words, I thought their debut was a real slice of greatness, and while their social media shenanigans got a little tiresome - along with a title for the new album that stank of emo pretension - I figured what the hell and dove into The 1975's sophomore record, which from the hype and lead-off single was reportedly weirder and more colourful than their sleek debut. What did we get?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

video review: 'new bermuda' by deafheaven

Well, this was outside of my usual comfort zone! Can't say I'm complaining, I really had a ton of fun filming and making this review.

Next up... well, I've got a few options ready and waiting, let's go for something a bit more obscure. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

album review: 'new bermuda' by deafheaven

I can imagine there are a whole load of people who are looking at me doing this review right now and rolling their eyes. "Of course he's doing this review - some pasty white guy who spends most of his time talking about every other genre besides metal now is going to talk about Deafheaven? What does this Toronto hipster who spends more time listening to hip-hop and country know about black metal, so of course he talks about the least kvlt black metal act, the type that gets all the Pitchfork brats squealing that they're redefining the sound when frankly Burzum was blending in post-rock as early as '94 and Alcest was doing it in the mid-2000s and Wolves In The Throne Room were doing for nearly their entire career until they went experimental towards drone on Celestite...

So yeah, I did some of my homework here, but here's the funny thing: for the most part none of it is wrong, and one of the reasons I've been so hesitant to cover this record. Of the genres that I've delved into this year, black metal is one that remains tough for me to appreciate - partially because I've a fan of lyrics and between the screaming and production they can be hard to parse out, partially because, as I've said in the past, nihilistic subject matter only goes so far with me, and partially because I wanted to make sure I grasped the history of the genre before covering this record. And while I will whole-heartedly admit I've still got a ways to go, I think I can speak to why the hipster set went insane for an act like Deafheaven when they dropped the critically acclaimed Sunbather in 2013: melodies, transitions, and production. Yeah, they weren't as brutal or evil-sounding in comparison with some of the heaviest black metal I've heard, and the lyrics tended towards poetic abstraction instead of bone-crunching Satanism, but when the melodies were this good, the transitions this smooth, the atmosphere this potent, and the marketing of the band this accessible, it's no surprise people jumped on board. Now admittedly I wasn't really one of them - I've always been more of a progressive metal guy - but I could see why people liked Deafheaven; they weren't reinventing the wheel, but it's hard to deny the compositional skill.

So when I heard their newest record New Bermuda was going to be more aggressive and heavy, it really seemed like the best of two worlds - win back the metal elitists who dismissed them as hipster bait, and scare away the popular crowd who only jumped on board for that reason in the first place. And given that I've never really loved a Deafheaven record - Wolves In The Throne Room and In The Woods... both hit me a little harder, although the latter is more on the prog side - I still wanted to talk about this. So how did New Bermuda turn out?