Cymbals Eat Guitars
Back in 2009, Cymbals Eat Guitars first caught my attention with their first single,“And the Hazy Sea.” The song was a mish-mash of indie rock, a Pavement meets Superchunk meets The Pixies meets Built to Spill meets Modest Mouse type of conglomeration that one could only dreamed of in the mid-90s. I can still remember the first time I heard the song as a sample on a music website and how instantly I transformed into a teenager in that moment, re-connecting with all the greats from the previous decade. Unfortunately, the rest of the debut album, Why There Are Mountains, didn’t quite live up to the frenzied tide of “And the Hazy Sea,” but I still expected a bright future from the band.
In 2011 they returned with Lenses Alien, an album that received favorable reviews but still lacked the same intensity of that first track. I chocked it up to a band striking gold once and never seeing the light again. Thankfully, my assessment was completely wrong.
While reading No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan several months ago, the fact that Bob Dylan grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota struck a nerve with me. Not that I didn’t already know Robert Zimmerman’s hometown; what caught me off guard was the way author Robert Shelton described Dylan’s disdain for small town life. Being a fellow small town Midwest boy who couldn’t wait to escape, I felt a spiritual connection to Bob, like maybe that internal yearning for bigger things is what has always drawn me to his music. On the first page of the biography, Shelton encapsulates the mining town: “Hibbing had dug its own grave with sixty years of mining shovels, now only good for burying miners.” This description reminded me of my hometown that imploded when the Morrell’s meat packing plant left town three decades ago. As the book went on to describe the very familiar scene of empty storefronts and prevalent backwater conservatism, I decided I had to visit Bob Dylan’s hometown, a seven hour drive north from where I grew up.
When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day
Two years ago, Mirel Wagner emerged from Finland like a haunting ghost, bringing with her the sparse, folk storytelling that had long been forgotten. Her songs told darkly disturbing fairy tales of death and decay, all conveyed through only her raspy, alto voice and the soft strumming of her guitar. Her approach seemed simple enough, but the combination of the lo-fi production and Mirel’s hypnotic melodies resulted in one of the best folk albums of 2012.
When I first purchased Wagner’s latest release, When the Cellar Children See the Light, I worried that the sophomore curse would hinder all the elements that made her first album great. Would the songs sound as gritty with amped up production value? Would Wagner lose sight of the muse that inspired such intense songs as “No Death” and “To the Bone”?
In this episode we take a look at some of the best metal albums to come out in the past few months. You’ll hear new tracks from Mastodon, Pallbearer, Yob, Soft Pink Truth, and Eyehategod. I also discuss the documentary “Last Days Here” and check out classic songs from Pentagram and Judas Priest. Check it out HERE or subscribe on iTunes (search: BDWPS).
Mastodon “Ember City”
Pallbearer “Foundations of Burden”
Pentagram “Walk in the Blue Light”
Yob “Nothing to Win”
Soft Pink Truth “Black Metal”
Eyehategod “Worthless Rescue”
Judas Priest “Diamonds and Rust”
Lost amidst all the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch fanfare, an icon was silently murdered last Tuesday. After 12 years of providing music fans with handheld listening enjoyment, Apple’s portable mp3 playing flagship, the iPod Classic, was discontinued. You can search the Apple website all you want, but any sign of the legendary device have been erased from existence.
[Polyvinyl / Transgressive; 2014]
Nostalgia-based music is far from a new thing. Every year 100s of bands release albums paying homage to the sounds of old, ranging from 60s psychedelia, 70s prog-rock, or 80s new wave. With their self-titled debut, Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) are just another one of these bands borrowing heavily from the past, but the difference with this Nova Scotia quintet from many others is the flawless craftsmanship displayed through every track on the album.
I’m not suggesting that what Alvvays have created is perfect. In fact, pristine musicianship and production would tarnish exactly what makes the album so great. Thanks to producer/genius Chad VanGaalen, the album’s rough, lo-fi exterior amplifies the warm and welcoming heart of the music. The songs are a refreshing mix of 60s pop and 80s new wave, blending the jangly guitars of the Mama’s and the Papas with the no-nonsense synths of Kraftwerk. This is far from a paint by genre venture with the album’s constant reliance on a rumbling under current of overdrive helping to give it a faint punk aftertaste.
A few weeks ago the MTV Video Music Awards took place, and to be honest, I didn’t watch. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I viewed the yearly event (probably in a dorm room over a decade ago). I hate to play the “back in my day” card, but I do feel that there was a time when the VMAs were legitimately about rewarding great music videos and not just a popularity contest. Big winners in 2014 include former child stars like Miley Cyrus and Drake, and Lorde was awarded the “Best Rock Video” of the year for her song “Royals.” You know, THIS SONG that doesn’t feature any guitars and is built around a looping hip-hop beat? Can we all just agree that rock (at least the popular variety) is dead?
On social media I’ve seen some bemoan the age-old complaint that MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore, but I think it’s time to get over the fact they haven’t been a music channel for over a decade. Some have suggested that music videos don’t matter anymore. However, I think they are more important than they have been since their explosion in the 80s. Young people have turned to YouTube as a major source of music listening, often playing the same video multiple times just to re-hear their favorite OneDirection song. The highest rated videos on YouTube aren’t of people on fire, or people getting hit in the nuts, but music videos of teeny-bop stars (hence why YouTube has now started its own music awards).
I am still old-fashioned in my listening habits, predominantly purchasing LPs and CDs with the occasional MP3 when I can’t wait until my next record store visit. Despite my out-of-touch approach to music, I do still check out new music videos on occasion. I’m not spending hours online watching videos, but I do have some new videos that I’ve watched several times. Here are some of my favorite videos as of late.