Showing posts with label prog rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prog rock. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2019

video review: 'a boat on the sea' by moron police

And this was pretty damn special - huge thanks to Crash Thompson for pushing this out the door to me.

But now for a top ten on the docket... stay tuned!

Friday, October 11, 2019

album review: 'a boat on the sea' by moron police

I think the general reaction from everyone who has heard this has been, 'Where the hell did this come from' - closely followed by 'Wait, those guys? Are you serious?!'

And that's a fair reaction here - for those of you who recognize the name Moron Police at all, you probably know them more for some Norwegian progressive metal that was more in the comedy scene... a scene I don't normally touch as a rule, because comedy music is incredibly subjective and I have strange tastes in comedy. And going back to Moron Police's first two albums... well, their debut had promise and showed a band who could split progressive heaviness with real hooks and some wit, but it seemed to curdle on their second album Defenders of the Small Yard into something darker with an odd, unpleasant sourness to it - this is a band that released a single called 'T-Bag Your Grandma', that should give you a rough idea where the humour was going. Coupled with a math rock side that was very much not my thing, after going through those first two albums in preparation for this one, I seriously questioned would it all be worth it... but those people who have heard A Boat On The Sea have not stopped raving about it and the recommendations only stepped up after my Tool review where I professed I liked my progressive rock and metal to have more melody. So with all of that mind, what is A Boat On The Sea?

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?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

video review: 'offerings' by typhoon

So I'm not making any fans with this review... but then again, I said that right at the very beginning, I'm not surprised here.

Right, so next up is BØRNS, and that'll be coming tomorrow... then probably some quick Ron Gallo as I start work on the next top ten, so stay tuned!

album review: 'offerings' by typhoon

Oh, I'm not going to make any fans with this review. 

And part of this starts with an observation about the increased commercialization of indie rock, because there's really two distinct schools of it nowadays. You have the roughscrabble upstarts where if they get any crossover appeal it comes by fluke, where the textures or vocals or presentation or content might be offkilter or abrasive, but there's something about it all that sticks, usually in the fine details of great compositions or smart writing or just a damn solid understand of their strengths.

And on the flip side you have the indie groups that are flagged as 'indie' because they're just quirky enough to not fit mainstream pop or rock but safe enough to play for your average gentrified afternoon beer-run and picnic in the park. You know the groups, the ones that a decade ago would be called adult alternative and will be soundtracking comfortable middle-brow sitcoms and commercials for a steady paycheque - and that's not always a bad thing, for the record. Hell, I'd probably put The National in this category, and they're a genuinely terrific band even despite that last record - but I always get worried when I start hearing about groups in this vein branded as 'experimental' or 'progressive', because more often than not they're labels used for cheap marketing to disguise pretentiousness or a lack of cohesion while never being truly challenging. And even then, it can still work - look at Elbow, even though I'd argue they're more just straight progressive rock - but on the flip side you get acts like alt-J, and the group we're discussing today, Typhoon. They broke out in the very early 2010s and I can emphatically say I'm not a fan, mostly because they have the sound of a profoundly boring and stuffy group that tried to substitute wonky song structures for depth and experimentation. Some critics tried to compare them to Arcade Fire for their massive lineup - they have a horns and strings section - but it holds shockingly little water to me, mostly because even at Arcade Fire's most pretentious and least earnest they could still write a decent hook or had some interesting production. With Typhoon it always felt way too clean and sanitized, with the content on records like White Lighter trying to bring an edge but with no clear idea how to do so in production or composition - out of nowhere tempo shifts and transitions don't always make you progressive; without a foundation, you're just obtuse.

So yeah, not a fan, but apparently their newest record was their most ominous and sonically demanding, so either someone in the band decided to grow some testicles or a spine and they had somehow managed to stick the landing on this fourteen track, seventy minute album, or it was going to be the biggest mess they ever made. So, what did we get?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

album review: 'painted ruins' by grizzly bear / 'how did we get so dark' by royal blood / 'visuals' by mew / 'no culture' by mother mother (VACATION SERIES)

So here is our second vlog, this time from Lexington (and a few days late posting - I am on vacation, promotion takes time). In any case, next up I'm now in Nashville, so stay tuned for more!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

album review: 'planetarium' by sufjan stevens, james mcalister, bryce dessner & nico muhly

I don't even know where to start with this one. When I saw that this album had not only been requested early, but had received by far the most votes on my schedule thanks to Patreon, I was blown away. Not for Katy Perry, not for Rise Against, this - but hey, I was curious too, these sorts of supergroup collaborations don't come around every day.

So background here: apparently this started as a commissioned orchestra piece that was performed live back in 2012, but never properly recorded, so Sufjan Stevens rounded up a murder's row of talent to take this score into fresh territory. And we've got heavyweights here: Sufjan is a powerhouse in his own right, but when you add in the guitarist of The National Bryce Dessner, classical composer Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAllister, you've got a stacked lineup of talent. And considering these are all songs written about space and our solar system... look, we don't get enough good music celebrating space, I'll just say that right now. Now on the one hand I was really excited to dig into this, but I also know that this could very well play like that Lights & Motion record I covered months ago, a potent piece of music that can feel a little unengaging or abstract to the point of frustration. But still, I was fascinated by what this quartet could do with this material - it's too odd and distinct of a concept to ignore, so what did we find in Planetarium?

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Yeah, I know, I should have posted this two days ago, but given that I was hitting burnout and I needed a day or two to recuperate (plus, my birthday and such), I wanted to get this out.

And on the note of getting things out, time for some long-overdue catchup - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

album review: 'inFinite' by deep purple

Look, even despite being a longtime Deep Purple fan, I don't think anyone expected their 2013 record Now What?! to be as great as it was. 

Their first record in eight years and their first after the death of long-time keyboardist Jon Lord - it showed a band reinvigorated yet again, surging forward with the sort of progressive experimentation and flair that didn't reflect a band that had been around for over forty five years! And sure, you might be able to pass along some credit to legendary producer Bob Ezrin, but it's also hard to ignore that Deep Purple are one of the most resilient hard rock bands still working. Let's get brutally honest, you can probably count the number of rock bands who tour as extensively as Deep Purple does for as long as they have on one hand, and to see a resurgence of quality in the compositions and songwriting - long one of the areas the band has struggled on weaker albums, of which there are a fair few - was a true marvel. 

But like it or not, you can't do it forever, and there's a part of me that knew it would only be a matter of time before Deep Purple set their instruments aside, perhaps to go off on one glorious high note as hard rock legends. They had finally been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, an honor many had said they had deserved for decades, they were coming off the most critical acclaim and popular attention they had received in years if not decades, and unfortunately drummer Ian Paice had suffered a minor stroke in June of last year, which affected his right hand and fingers. And to end things off with one last ride called The Long Goodbye Tour and a record called inFinite, I had the feeling that this might just be the last record we get from Deep Purple. So enough reminiscing and nostalgia, what do we get on inFinite?

Monday, October 17, 2016

video review: 'sorceress' by opeth

I dunno what to say about this one, folks - I'm a little surprised how many people seemed to agree, given how much critical acclaim this record has received, but I guess more people were dissatisfied too...

Anyway, Karen Jonas and JoJo (for some reason) are next, so stay tuned!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

album review: 'sorceress' by opeth

The last time I talked about Opeth, it got complicated. 

And it got complicated for reasons I find more than a little amusing, because for as much as I like progressive rock and metal, to say nothing of the production and mixing talents of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Steven Wilson, I found the overall blend of it with Opeth in progressive rock and metal to be a little less inspiring than I liked, especially when I dug into Heritage and the 2014 album I reviewed Pale Communion. Paradoxically, going back through Opeth's discography I found records like the progressive and blackened death metal - a genre of which I'm rarely a fan - of albums like Still Life, Blackwater Park, and the twin release of Deliverance and Damnation. As such, while I like Pale Communion I haven't gone back to it in the same way, especially not in comparison with Steven Wilson's amazing solo project Hand. Cannot. Erase. last year in 2015. Two great tastes that don't always work together, it happens - Steven Wilson did contribute to their more aggressive side on those early 2000s albums, maybe they should have stuck with that instead of going full retro-prog.

But it seems like Opeth themselves were looking to shift things up yet again. After four albums with Roadrunner Records, they left the label for Nuclear Blast for their newest album Sorceress, which looked to be infusing more of a metal flavour back into their material. More interestingly was the fact that Steven Wilson was nowhere near the production credits of the album, which hasn't been the case for Opeth in fifteen years. And as such, the critical reviews have suggested it's one of Opeth's best albums in years too, so I wanted to ensure I gave it full consideration... even if, again, it is a little late. So okay, what did we get with Sorceress?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

video review: 'theories of flight' by fates warning

Well, this took me WAY too long to get out - and I also apparently bungled the publishing process, so I don't think anyone has seen much of it. Gah, one click could have made it all work...

In any case, I've got Michael Kiwanuka and Uncommon Nasa/Short Fuze coming up soon, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

album review: 'theories of flight' by fates warning

It's widely understood that there were four bands who really 'broke' progressive metal towards more mainstream acceptance - well, as mainstream as prog metal gets. I've talked about Dream Theater twice and they probably stand out as my favourites, although I can definitely say that early Queensryche gets up there too. And then there's Tool... look, I'll save that discussion for if they ever actually release another album, I'm not sure I want to deal with the dumpster fire that conversation will be.

Then there's the last group, the one that gets mentioned in the same sentence and came up around the same time but never seems to get the same attention or critical acclaim. That group is Fates Warning, a group that for the past few weeks I've been exploring in detail to try and understand why exactly they never get the same attention. And I think there are a number of reasons: they never really had a huge crossover into the mainstream, they weren't active throughout a significant chunk of the 2000s, and they also weren't really as good. I'm not saying the group was bad, but the group definitely suffered through some pretty rough production throughout the 80s that would only start to turn around in earnest by the turn of the decade with Perfect Symmetry and Parallels. And yet from there... it's hard to tell what it is, beyond the unfair comparisons to stronger peers. They wrote good music, but I'm not sure I could point to that standout classic record the same way I could with Operation: Mindcrime or Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory. I don't think they were helped by trying to stick with production trends of the time rather than carve out their own route - it definitely dates both Disconnected and FWX as albums, even if I do think Disconnected is probably underrated. In any case, when the band went on hiatus and then came back in 2013 with Darkness In A Different Light, I actually quite liked that record - the band sounded fresh and invigorated, and the writing and production felt as fresh as anyone could have expected. So you can bet when I heard that Theories Of Flight was even better, hailed as one of Fates Warning's best albums, I was excited to dig in, so despite being a week or two late with this review, how did the album turn out?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

album review: 'do nothing till you hear from me' by the mute gods

So I'm going to start things off on a bit of a weird tangent, but I promise it does mostly make sense in context, and here it is: am I the only one who finds the whole recommended playlist or video or album concept completely frustrating?

Maybe it's because I'm a music critic, but I'd like to think the idea spreads across all forms of media: just because I like something of one genre is no guarantee I'm going to like something in the same genre, especially if I've got no historical record of liking them in the past. Just because I like Nightwish and Within Temptation doesn't mean I want Evanescence recommendations, for example. And what's exasperating is that you know it's entirely algorithm-based, off of tags and your historical viewing habits, all driven to make you consume more content - I'd prefer to take something similar to what Amazon or iTunes does, which correlate albums that people buy with other purchases they might have made. Maybe it's just me, but I'd trust the taste of people over the taste of a computer trying to ascertain what I'd think. Now the logical extension of that is that since people default to the lowest common denominator that they'd behave in a similar way to the algorithms, but you'll find when you go into smaller niche genres like progressive rock that it isn't quite the case, as people here are a little more willing to venture off the beaten path. 

I say all of this not just because this supergroup showed up a number of times when I was looking for new progressive rock, but also because bands tend to market themselves in a similar way - 'hey, we worked with these artists you liked, so maybe you should check out our stuff!' Again, a similar sense of caution needs to be there, but I'll admit I was intrigued when I first heard about The Mute Gods. Two of the members - bassist and frontman Nick Beggs and drummer Marco Minnemann - had toured with Steven Wilson and had played on his excellent record from 2015 Hand. Cannot. Erase. So when they called up Roger King to handle lead guitars, keyboards, and production, I had reason to be enthused, but I was also cautious. I might have issues with Steven Wilson, but the man is also a musical genius as a composer and songwriter, and I wasn't sure whether the stridently political approach that The Mute Gods were looking to take with their debut was as workable as they thought. But hey, at the very least these guys can all play incredibly well, so we're bound to get some great music out of it, right?

Monday, July 13, 2015

video review: 'coma ecliptic' by between the buried and me

So that happened. Honestly hoped it'd be a little better, but eh, it happens.

Next up, well, I was originally going to cover Years & Years, but expect schedules to change...

album review: 'coma ecliptic' by between the buried and me

Oh, I bet there's a whole slew of you that are surprised I'm covering this. 

See, I'll admit that I don't cover a ton of metal outside of a few specific genres, most notably towards the progressive or symphonic side. So my choice to talk about a group that has crossed plenty of genres but probably falls closest to technical death metal probably raises a few eyebrows.

Well, funny story: I got into Between The Buried And Me in university, basically on a couple suggestions that I should check out Alaska and Colors because they were genre-bending masterpieces. But unlike an act like Cynic or Devin Townsend where I immediately found a lot to like, Between The Buried And Me took a fair bit longer to really gel with me - mostly because they're a complicated band known for dramatic switch-ups midsong in tone, tempo, or even genre that could be jarring as hell. I could appreciate the killer musicianship and some underrated and clever songwriting, but finding cohesive songs was a little trickier, especially on their first two releases. But once they had a stable line-up, solidified their sound, and worked out a more cohesive flow, they had the one-two punch of Alaska and Colors. And while I liked Alaska, I goddamn loved Colors - a phenomenally cohesive, strikingly memorable, and powerfully evocative record that grows on me with every listen.

But after those two... well, I did like The Great Misdirect, but I was also getting the impression that the genre-crossing was starting to come at the steep price of cohesion, especially when the writing couldn't always bridge the gap. The album had only six songs, but several went over ten minutes and had enough ideas for a good four tracks apiece. There was a little more focus on the The Parallax records, an EP and full-length released in 2011 and 2012, but the more I listened through them, the more I saw the cohesion just not there as much as it was at their best, and the integration of more keyboards and more electronic segments in their production oddly didn't help. But hey, they were on a new label at this point, maybe their newest album, another concept record, might be able to recapture that old magic. So I checked out Coma Ecliptic: did it pay off?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

video review: 'drones' by muse

Well, this was better received than I expected it'd be. Hmm, interesting.

Okay, tomorrow I'm going to try to get the Billy Currington review out, but RL might get in the way, so no promises. Stay tuned!