EMA “The Future’s Void”

EMA

The Future’s Void

[Matador; 2014]

Rating: 8

On EMA’s debut Past Life Martyred Saints, Ericka M. Anderson exposed every weakness and flaw imaginable on what would be one of the most emotionally raw albums of 2011. To expect her to return to the well of misery again would be masochistic, and fortunately with The Future’s Void, she’a turned the mirror on the listener, exploring our self-image and how we mold, mutilate, and mask it via the internet. While Martyred Saints examined how we see ourselves, 2014’s The Future’s Void dissects how we want other’s to see us and the self-inflicted vulnerability that comes with it.

Anderson has claimed that The Future Void isn’t a concept album. Despite this assertion, every song on the album seems to merge at some point back toward references to what she sardonically labels as the “superhighway.” From the cover image of her holding up a vacuumous virtual reality headset to the songs’ reoccurring imagery of “Big Brother” watching over us, this album definitely has a focus if not an overlying theme. This message is best found on album highlight “3Jane” where Anderson laments “Feel like I glued my soul out across the inter-webs and screamed/…It left a hole so big inside of me.” The song builds over a rolling piano as Anderson whispers out her futile frustrations.

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The War On Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

The War On Drugs

Lost in the Dream

[Secretly Canadian; 2014]

Rating: 8.5

In the world of music journalism, the act of writing about one’s self within an album review is frowned upon. I try to adhere to this detached, information-based approach, although I probably fail to keep my own experiences out of a review more than I’d like. Take the latest War On Drugs album Lost in the Dream as an example. I’ve sat down several times over the past few weeks to write about this album of unrestrained synth-rock, but each time the review spirals into a therapy session on how this introspective music affected me in a vulnerable moment.   Despite my inability to write about this album without bringing in my personal connection to the music, I still feel compelled to review Lost in the Dream, an album that has meant the world to me the past month.

It all started three weeks ago with a jarring text message from a friend, received just moments before the workday began: “James died last night at midnight.” My friend had been battling with leukemia for two years, and I’d already been warned that his final days were approaching. Regardless, I still wasn’t ready for the news – I guess we never are. The combination of shock and the workload in front of me helped me to quickly move on with my day, sweeping the horrible news under the metaphorical rug.

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BDWPS Podcast #24

 

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In this episode I revisit my week at SXSW, discussing some of the bands that made 2014 another successful experience. Also, I continue my look at Bob Dylan’s life, this time visiting his college days in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Check out the latest episode HERE or subscribe at iTunes (search: BDWPS).

Playlist:

Guided By Voices “Salty Salute”
Cloud Nothings “Just See Fear”
Vertical Scratchers “Pretend U Are Free”
Urge Overkill “Bottle of Fur”
Black Lips “Boys in the Woods”
Upset “She’s Gone”
Eagulls “Possessed”
Bob Dylan “Bob Dylan Blues”

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SXSW 2014

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Before I get into all the fun that is South By Southwest, I wanted to first take a moment to express my sympathy for those who were injured and lost their lives during Wednesday night’s festivities.  My two friends actually witnessed the horrific event, and if I hadn’t gone for a quick restroom break before leaving Cheer Up Charlie’s, we could have been out there when the drunken asshole selfishly plowed through a barricaded street. I’m not sure if the media conveyed the amazing speed and efficiency executed by the medics, volunteers, and police that evening. By the time I emerged to meet up with my friends, only minutes after the atrocity, all 25 of the victims were already receiving assistance, often from groups of three to five people, administering CPR and helping to bandage wounds.

With SXSW growing more and more each year, the streets feel more chaotic and dangerous than ever, but the quickness and professionalism displayed by everyone that night assured me that both SXSW and the city of Austin are prepared for literally anything.   While this event certainly put a damper on the week, there were still a lot of highlights to look back on.  Here are some of the best and worst moments from the week…

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BDWPS Podcast: Episode #23

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In this episode we jump full speed into the best albums to come out already in 2014. Discussions include a history of Mali band Tinariwen and their inspiring back story, a look back at my discovery of Slough Feg at South By Southwest years ago, and an appreciation of the documentary “A Band Called Death.”As with all episodes we pay tribute to Bob Dylan, this time looking at his tumultuous days back in Hibbing, Minnesota.

Listen to it HERE! (or subscribe on iTunes – search: BDWPS)

Track List:

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks “Lariat” 
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra “Take Away these Early Grave Blues” 
Tinariwen “Imidiwan Ahi Sigdim” 
Self Defense Family “Nail House Music” 
Roc Marciano (ft. Ka & Guilty Simpson) “Squeeze” 
Slough Feg “Laser Enforcer” 
Death “Let the World Turn” 
Bob Dylan “North Country Blues”

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Have a Nice Life “The Unnatural World”

Have a Nice Life

The Unnatural World

[The Flesner; 2014]

RATING: 8.5

Recently Trevor Powers (the brains behind Youth Lagoon) pleaded on Twitter, “Please, no more genres. Find a better way to classify music.” Only a few weeks prior, NPR writer Bob Boilen questioned the future of labeling sounds with a blog entitled “Can You Imagine a World Without Music Genres?” Both of them have a point. With new bastardized sub-genres popping up daily, it’s getting to the point where one will be required to use an algorithm to crack the sub-genre code laid out by the all-knowing music reviewer.

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Sun Kil Moon “Benji”

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Sun Kil Moon

Benji

[Caldo Verde; 2014]

Rating: 10

Mark Kozelek’s music has never been about the lyrics. Whether it be his time with Red House Painters, his solo work, or his latest project Sun Kil Moon, his calming tenor and intricate guitar picking always took precedence over the metaphor-cloaked lyrics. I’ve been a fan of Kozelek’s work for the past decade, and the only lyrics that stand out in my mind are not even his, rather, from his two cover albums Tiny Cities (Modest Mouse) and What’s Next To the Moon (AC/DC).

In the past few years he has released a couple lackluster albums that suggested his muse was waning, but with his latest, Benji, it looks like that imminent closing window resulted in him throwing away his tride-and-true blueprint and starting anew. In a recent interview Kozelek said of his new start: “I’ve run out of metaphors, and when you get older, you’re bothered, or inspired, by other things in life than a girl breaking up with you. Things get heavier as you get older.”

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