Tag Archives: Baroness

BDWPS Podcast: Episode 46 (Cinco De Metal)

In this year’s episode of “Cinco De Metal” we check out some of the best metal releases in the past five months. You’ll hear new music from Baroness, Cobalt, Oranssi Pazuzu, Aluk Todolo, Black Tusk, and Deftones. We also take a look at the Lemmy Kilmister documentary, “Lemmy”.

Check out the episode HERE or better yet, go subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher, or GooglePlay (search key word: BDWPS).

Track List:

Baroness “Chlorine & Wine”
Cobalt “Beast Whip”
Oranssi Pazuzu “Saturaatio”
Aluk Todolo “III”
Black Tusk “Gods On Vacation”
Deftones “Hearts – Wires”
Hawkwind “Down through the Night”
Bob Dylan “Girl From the North Country”

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Best Album Covers of 2012

Elliott_Smith_Memorial_Wall

And the winners are…

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POSTERIZED: Baroness 6/5/11

On the morning of June 6th, 2011, I woke up in an unfamiliar place. Like a scene from “Memento,” I got up and surveyed my foreign surroundings (although I didn’t have any tattoos for guidance). Beside the bed laid my pants in a disheveled pile; next to them sat a couple crumpled balls of one dollar bills and a pair of florescent orange ear buds. I stood up only to discover a pain coursing from my neck, up my brain stem, and into my cranium.  I brought my hands to my head and rubbed my temples to try and alleviate what was certainly one of the worst headaches ever. As I tried easing the pain, I noticed one of my shoes by the door and the other on the opposite side of the room by the nightstand.

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Best Album Covers of 2011

20. Hello Echo

“Hello”

I placed this cover at the bottom of my list because I’m not sure if it’s actually a great cover, or if I’m just in love with the idea of a battle between a giant tree (or ent) and a robot building pulled straight from the movie “Big” (“I don’t get it! I don’t get it!”). If only they had thought of this concept for the movie “Real Steel”; it may have actually be watchable.

19. Friendly Fires

“PALA”

Friendly Fire’s guitarist says of their 2011 release “Pala”: “Our goal is to make vibrant, wide screen songs, but they must retain spontaneity, have an energy and mysticism around them.” Add the fact that their music is often labeled “tropical disco” and you’ve got the perfect cover for “PALA.”

18. Autre Ne Veut

“Body EP”

Um, so yeah…um, this is a picture of…well, um…you know. I questioned whether this was one of the best or worst covers. Is it pornographic or scientific? Is it alluring or disgusting? I came to the conclusion that a great cover should cause this type of uncertainty, stir up these questions, and add to your listening experience. When else would you be forced to try making a connection between stripped-down R&B and…well, something that rhymes with Mulva.

17. Iron & Wine

“Kiss Each Other Clean”

The good news: Iron and Wine’s cover for “Kiss Eachother Clean” is colorful, original, and refreshing. The bad news: the same can’t be said for the stale music on the album.

16. Braid

“Native Speaker”

I’m a sucker for a cover that doubles as optical illusions (check my number one cover back in 2009), and the cover for Braids “Native Speaker” satisfies this need. What at first may seem like a blasé portrait of the view through a shower door will soon have your eyes crossing and seeing visions like you're tripping off the vapors from a Sudafed shower tablet.

15. Thee Oh Sees

“Castlemania”

So what do you think will make the monster more furious: when he realizes it's a toy phone or that it’s a rotary?

14. Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestra

“The Hills are Alive”

Flowers and mountains, and green growing pastures, Blue skies, and white clouds, and hairy goat faces, these are a few of my favorite things!

 13. BOAT
“Dress Like Your Idols”

Wearing your influences on your sleeve is so old hat. Wear them on your album cover! (I recognize seven of the nine album covers parodied here. Can someone help me and specify the albums in the top two squares of the right column? I feel like a hack for not knowing).

12.Gillian Welch

“The Harrow and the Harvest”

So you’re telling me that the guitarist from Baroness drew the cover for a country artist? BAD. ASS.

11. Young Galaxy

“Shapeshifting”

Can someone help this poor girl? Is her face glued to the floor? Are her feet excessively buoyant? Or is her bra stuffed with bricks?

10. Radiohead

“King of Limbs”

I’ll admit it – “King of Limbs” didn’t live up to expectations. It’s too short (37 minutes!), there’s none of the jaw-dropping songs we’re accustomed to, and simply put: it’s not “In Rainbows” (no one could have followed that album up; give them some slack!). Despite all its short-comings, the band still delivers with some truly haunting album artwork that is part graphiti over a photograph of trees and part demented rejects from Pac-Man (Blinky! Is that you!?)..

9. Jay-Z and Kanye West

“Watch the Throne”

If you’re going to have album called “Watch the Throne” you better bring the goods when it comes to packaging. Kanye and Jay-Z don’t disappoint with a Riccardo Tisci designed album cover that resembles a decadent engraving in gold. With its intricate embroidery and textured surface, it’s the coolest “golden” packaging since “The Legend of Zelda” (Zelda’s ‘bout to go HAM!).

8. Luke Temple

“Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care”

As a kid, if you ever imagined your drawings coming to life, this is what it might look like. I love the sheer chaos of the image coupled with the childish, messy style. This scribbly aproach gives the cover movement, and if you look at it long enough, the little fellow on the bike might just get away after all.

7. Discodiene

“S/T”

Taking advantage of primary colors, this cover shows that simple is sometimes better. Without the red lions, the blue cavern, or the yellow light of hope, this would be just another classical black and white drawing. Just think, with the help of Photobucket picture editor, YOU could make the top 20 list next year!

6. Bon Iver

“S/T”

I actually didn’t appreciate this cover when I first saw it. In fact, I found it to be a bit hack (a secluded cabin in the woods…WE GET IT JUSTIN!). Then I saw a short youtube clip showing the progress of making the cover and saw nuances I’d never noticed. Realizing this was in fact a multi-media, 3-dimensional masterpiece, I had to take all my pessimism and hide it in that pathetic little cabin in my soul.

The video clip that changed my tune:

5. Gang Gang Dance

“Eye Contact”

So much depends upon a grasshopper, glazed with morning dew, atop a green plant.

4. J. Mascis

“Several Shades of Why”

Mark Spusta, the artist who made the fantastic cover for Dinosaur Jr’s “Farm” is back, and this time he takes cool to all new territories. Yes, it’s trippy and wild and all that “Farm” had with its attack of the trees imagery, but it’s also cute in a “Hello Kitty” kinda of way. Yet, it’s still somehow a deeply depressing image. It’s rare that a color pencil drawing can conjure up so many reactions. When is this guy going to get a movie deal? Enough with Pixar; I want to explore the strange world found in Spusta’s mind.

3. Erland and the Carnival

“Nightingale”

Every year my list inevitably contains a cover that features a photograph that is either retro or that captures the energy of the music. This cover accomplishes both with a girl appearing to float amidst a room filled with 70s nostalgia (is that a poster of “Columbo”?). The cover’s greatness is furthered when the background of the photograph is revealed: this is a picture taken of Janet Hodgson, a girl supposedly possessed by the devil back in the 70s, being thrown across the room by the evil spirit. Poltergeist has never looked this fun.

2. Cut Copy

“Zonoscope”

In 2011 we saw the media try and convince us that a hurricane was going to hit New York (they also tried to get us to believe that Tracey Morgan hates gay people). As in most cases, only the crazies believed their fear mongering. Cut Copy’s “Zonscope” album cover presents an elegant view of what it may have been like if the news had been actually telling the truth. And how would New York respond? With a middle finger in the form of the Empire State Building.

1. Teebs

“Collection 01”

Almost all of the albums featured on this list are created by outside artist. Whether it be a picture taken by a polish photographer, a color pencil drawing by an artist, or a slide stolen from a gynecologists office, most bands draw inspiration from others creations. Not Teebs though (actual name Mtendere Mandowa). This hip-hop producer creates both his art and music in unison, using one to inspire the other and vice versa. As a result, his beats are glazed in nature while his paintings of flowers are influenced by modern society. It’s one of the rare cases where you can actually judge an album by its cover.

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Top 20 Albums of 2009 (10-1)

10.Dinosaur Jr.

“Farm”

Dinosaur Jr pisses me off.  In 1989 Lou Barlow left the group due to inner-group tension, and as a result, we were robbed of 18 year of amazing music. Don’t get me wrong, the post-Barlow era of Dinosaur Jr still had some great albums but they fail in comparison to such classics as “Bug” and “You’re Living All Over Me”.  Fortunately, they finally got over their little quarrel and got back to rocking a few years back. If you thought the band’s kick-ass 2007 reunion album “Beyond” was a fluke, “Farm” serves as evidence that you are gravely mistaken.  Usually when bands reunite, they sound dated and contrived, but somehow, Dino’s reunion material sounds fervent and fresh.  Yes, J. Mascis is keeping the guitar solo alive, and it’s never sounded better.

9. Sunset Rubdown

“Dragonslayer”

“Dragonslayer” is a grower, not a show-er.  The first few listens may be difficult to wrap your head around, but once you’ve grounded yourself in Spencer Krug’s peculiar realm, you’ll find yourself swept away by his story of the struggle between friendship and love. Soon, Krug will have you wondering aloud “Why DID Anna change her name?” or “how did you get held up at yesterday’s parties?”  Krug buries his tale beneath a pile of vivid metaphors, yet, you still sense there is a narrative haunting around the tombstone. “Dragonslayer” is a lot like a T.S. Elliot poem: the more you listen to it, the more you want to hear it, to know it, to understand it.  “Dragonslayer” is the indie-rock opera the Decemberists were aiming for with “The Hazards of Love”, and Anna is our generation’s Pinball Wizard (I still don’t get why she had to change her name though).

8. Jay Reatard

“Watch Me Fall”

You haven’t heard songs this catchy since The Beatle’s “Hard Days Night”, although if Jay were a member of the Fab Five there would have been a lot of chicks with black eyes (No one charges Jay Reatard without receiving a souvenir).  Don’t be fooled by “Watch Me Fall’s” up-beat, cheery sound; this encourageable little pup’s got bite. Although “Watch Me Fall” is grounded in punk, it shows Jay maturing with his sound, relying more often upon his acoustic guitar and songwriting that is complex and finely tuned.  Complex punk? If you don’t think it’s possible, take it up with Jay.

7. Akron/Family

“Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free”

The cover says it all – there is no other album in 2009 that represents America’s trials and tribulations better than “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free”.  It of course has the folk backbone throughout, but along the ride, the band takes you through various styles of American music, from big band, 60s psychedelia, 40s doo-wop, 90s hip-hop, to the punk-rock noise of the 70s and 80s.  Like a musical Betsy Ross, Akron/Family have taken all the genres of music that have grown out of the “land of the free” and created an intricate, multi-faceted, harmonious quilt of where we’ve been.  Throughout, these sounds are intertwined naturally and performed wonderfully by non-other than Akron/Family.

6. The Thermals

“Now We Can See”

I would have loved to have the members of The Thermals in my English class.  They understand all the basic Literary Elements: themes, metaphors, foreshadowing, symbolism, etc.  Their 2007 release “The Body, the Blood, and the Machine” relied heavily upon allusions to the bible, using the imagery of the ancient book to tell stories and make a statement about our origin.  “Now We Can See” continues with the origin theme, although in this case they use the motif of evolution.  Every song makes references to the scientific theory that we “grew from the dirt “, then “took off (our) skin” and “crawled to the sea” “to swim!”(these four lyrics were taken from three different songs- now that’s an extended metaphor!). Within these Darwinian tales, the band tells stories of facing your fears, the perils of alcoholism, and the eventual demise of modern society.  Yes, this album is an English/Science teacher’s dream come true. Oh, and did I mention that the songs also kick ass?

5. The Very Best

“Warm Heart of Africa”

I didn’t know how to evaluate The Very Best’s first album due simply to the fact that most of the songs featured music by other artists, whether it be M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, or the music from the “True Romance” soundtrack. Although the music was undeniably delightful, could the band have the same result with their own backing tracks? “Warm Heart of Africa” shames me for doubting. Mwamwaya’s voice is still as smile-inducing as ever, and Radioclit’s contributions are stronger than anything on their self-titled effort. The African vibe is felt throughout, but Radioclit is able to carry the songs discreetly through a series of genres, whether it be new wave or trance.  In a time where regionalism has become almost nonexistent due to technology, The Very Best exemplify what is possible when cultures meld their ideas into one masterwork.

4. Baroness

“Blue Album”

At its core, “Blue Album” is a metal album- yet it is so much more. The band takes all of their eclectic influences and somehow combine them naturally into their powerful assault.  Nothing is forced. Every song evolves organically, taking the listener through an obstacle course of compelling riffs and devastating drums.  Metal is often associated with death, but the “Blue Album” is life its self, a blue flower blossoming in your ears, and then unexpectantly gashing your ear drums with their savage thorns.

3. Japandroids

“Post-Nothing”

About a month ago I had a student I trusted run out to my car to grab a folder I left on my front seat. Of course, I didn’t remember that under the folder laid the coffee table book “Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution”.  When he got back to my room his face was all aglow. “You like punk Mr. S?” he asked in amazement. It was like he had just learned that Santa Claus indeed did exist. Like an authoritative dick, I asked him to go to his desk and told him we could talk about it after class. This resulted in him standing in my room for 15 minutes during my lunch time, listing all the bands he was into, none of which I’d heard of.  He then pulled out his I-POD and commenced having me check out mediocre emo band after emo band, the 21st century’s version of punk.  I tried to think of a band to suggest to this kid, to save him, one that would guide him down the right path. Minor Threat? The Wipers? Rancid? No. I had to come up with something new; this kid didn’t want to listen to an old guy’s music by old punks.  Then it hit me: Japandroids.  Nothing screams youth more than two kids from Vancouver singing lines about wanting to leave there stomping grounds, living life without concern, and kissing french girls. I told him he had to get to lunch soon, but that I would play him “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, and as I watched this kid discover real, earnest, punk rock, the young heart in me may have even pumped out a couple heartbeats.

2. Bill Callahan

“Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle”

While “Woke On a Whaleheart” showed Bill trying find himself without his band Smog, “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle” is an overwhelming statement that Bill can in fact do this on his own.  While his band explored stranger terrain, Bill focuses on the tangible here, relying mostly on only the live instrumentation of pianos, guitars, and violins.  The album may seem intimate at times, but there are moments where Bill reminds us that his music can be larger than expected.  For example, when the strings break out on “Eid Ma Clack Shaw”, you’d swear it was a sequel to “Eleanor Rigby”.  But my favorite character has to be the mysterious guitar that lurks in the shadows of the album.  Every song you’ll catch a glimpse of it, a basic electric guitar, no effects needed, meandering in the background.  The only thing to upstage the unassuming guitar is Bill himself with his croaking baritone voice that speaks straight to your soul (I swear even the deaf can hear Bill’s voice).  If Bill Callahan only released his lyrics in poetic form, his words alone would be music to your ears. Oh, but we are luckier than that my friends. Not only is Bill a master wordsmith, but his music speaks volumes as well. Just imagine if Dylan Thomas could sing and play guitar?

1. Animal Collective

“Merriweather Post Pavilion”

On New Years Eve, the group I was hanging out with got into a discussion of who was the biggest band of the decade. The first answer to come to most of our minds was Radiohead. But driving back to Texas, I thought about the question longer and decided we may have been wrong.  TV On the Radio? Arcade Fire? The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? No, none of them created music as influential as Radiohead, but there is one band that did, and maybe even more so: Animal Collective (stick with me here…)

If you look back on Animal Collective’s resume for the past ten years, they’ve released eight albums, four EPs, and a multitude of side projects (Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” is unquestionably one of the top ten albums of the decade).  If you simply compare “Here Comes the Indian” to “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, you’ll see in an instant how much the band has grown. Every album presents a new way to aproach music. 

“Merriweater Post Pavilion” is quite possibly the band’s best album to date, the perfect culmination to a productive decade.  In this case, it’s not an insult to say that it is their most accessible album because to an outsider, “Merriweater Post Pavilion” would still seem pretty alien.  I hate to say the band has matured because it would be a damn shame, but they have definitely learned how to approach their music from a melodical stand-point (and you’ll never hear them scream once, which has slowly become a crutch for them over the years). 

Even the lyrics speak of growing up and facing adulthood.  Yet I insist, they have NOT grown up.  If anything, the album brings me back to my childhood, sounding like the soundtrack to “Fern Gullie”. The sounds are enchanting, exciting, and will have you conjuring up images of elves and gnomes prancing around a magical mushroom in no time.  It’s too bad Jim Henson is dead because I can only imagine what he could have done with the mystical world on “Merriweater Post Pavilion”. I guess as a consolation you can always rent “Fraggle Rock”, turn the sound off, and blast “Merriweater Post Pavilion” out of your stereo.  Who needs drugs when you’ve got “Merriweater Post Pavilion” and Muppets?

(Note to reader: Sad to say goodbye to our best of 2009 lists? Never fear! Over the tenure of 2010, Paul will be moving methodically through decade, listing what he deems the top albums for each year. Look for it in the coming weeks!)

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Best/Worst Album Covers of 2009

Unfortunately, there will not be any “Road Trip” blogs for two weeks due to all of my trip photos being on my home computer.  Never fear! The best of lists are here! Over the next couple weeks we will be unveiling our top albums, songs, and below, our best and worst album covers.  Enjoy your holiday season, and of course, enjoy our look back on 2009.

The Worst…

10. Kenny Chesney
“Greatest Hits II”

It looks like Kenny's roadies left all his gear on the beach. I guess he'll have to load it all himself! Fortunately, he doesn't have any sleeves to roll up.

9. Green Day
“21st Century Breakdown”

I think this album is supposed to look urban, dirty, and rebellious. Instead, it looks like a polished paint by numbers.

8. Susan Boyle
“I Dreamed a Dream”

When you are famous for being ugly with a beautiful voice, you probably shouldn't plaster your ugly mug on the CD cover, even if your hands are covering half of the mess. Like Obama would say, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." (Too harsh?)

7. Monsters of Folk
“s/t”
Oh! I get it! It’s folk stars in cartoon form! There’s Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and there’s….um…there’s….the dude from “Doonesbury”?
6. Adam Lambert
“For Your Entertainment”

Gay.

5. Twisted Sister
“Big Hits and Nasty Cuts: The Best of Twisted Sister”

I don't know what's worse: five 50-year-olds in ripped jeans and make-up or the monster's claws ripping through their image.

4. Chris Brown
“Graffiti”

Obviously, Chris Brown is not the best at making good decisions, but who knows what he was thinking with this cover. Maybe he's auditioning for the part of Judge Doom in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2". "Hey evil cartoon creatures! If you don't help me with my plan I'll spray you with The Dip!"

3. Ben’s Brother
“Battling Giants”

It looks like somebody went a little overboard with their collage. "But there were so many cool pics to cut out of my 'National Geographic!"

2. Bill Engvall
“Aged and Confused”

God is great. Beer is good. The world is crazy! EL OH EL!

1. Brooke Hogan
“The Redemption”

I know money may be tight for the Hulkster these days but this is God awful...I'm guessing Hulk must have owed a favor to a blind South Beach air-brush artist.

The Best…

10. The Black Lips
“200 Million Thousand”

At first glance this cover may seem lame with its scrawled letters and monotonous black and white lines, but if you stare at it a little longer, a gruesome face will emerge from the mess of lines. Beware!

9. Grizzly Bear
“Vecktamist”

I don't get Grizzly Bear, and it frustrates me to no end. Their 2009 release "Vectamist" has been critically acclaimed, yet I listen to it and find myself yawning. What am I missing here? Well, at least I can appreciate the album's expressionist cover, a vibrant blend of triangular shapes and chipping paint.

8. Baroness
“Blue Album”

It sure is nice having a graphic artist in your band.

7. Weezer
“Raditude”

Sure, this Weezer album sucks dog balls, but you can't deny the shear awesomeness featured in this image of a canine catapulting across a living room. If I could describe this picture in one word, it would "RADITUDE"! (Eck, I just gave myself douche chills)

6. Antlers
“Hospice”

This cover may seem boring and simple, but that is what makes it so brilliant. Everything seems to fit perfectly: the contrast of the colors and the cyclical feel of the two hands reaching out. When you notice that the left upper-hand is wearing a hospital wristband, the album's title "Hospice" takes on a much larger meaning.

5. Flaming Lips
“Embryonic”

This isn't the cartoony water color Flaming Lips cover you've grown accustomed too, which is fitting when considering the stark change in style the album contains. Dark and appalling, both the grimey music and the cover's image of a woman attempting to emerge from a hairy cocoon will leave you confused yet searching for more.

4. Dinosaur Jr.
“Farm”

I'm not sure if these walking plants are inspired by LOTR's Ents, or if they are supposed to be giant pot plants, but there is something damn cool about this image of vegetation dudes carrying cute women away from the city smog. It doesn't really fit the album's grinding riffs and howling guitar solos, but when a cover is this kick-ass, does it matter?

3. Biffy Clyro
“Only Revolutions”

This is a truly captivating photograph that only raises questions. Are these two being held captive? Why is there a fire? What do the sheets waving in the wind represent? Are they being held back? Or do they somehow represent sexual tension? Or am I just going crazy? It's too bad the band's music isn't nearly as interesting as this photo that will lead you to either enlightenment or insanity.

2. Animal Collective
“Merriweather Post Pavilion”

Stare at the picture for a moment. Is it moving like water? What makes it even cooler is how fitting it is alongside "Merriweather Post Pavilion's" watery, spaced out sounds.

1. Yo La Tengo
“Popular Songs”

A rusty, unravelling cassette tape - not only does it make you nostalgic for the age of the mix-tape, but it also makes you a little sad. Kids being born today will never own a physical piece of digital media. All their music, movies, and video games will be kept on a hard drive, not taking up space and gathering dust in the basement. At the same time, they will never know the joy of making that perfect blend of songs to be listened to ad nauseam in your car as your cruise the loop. As much as us "Hippies and a Ouija Board" want to keep this era alive, sometimes "Ghosts Don't Always Want to Come Back".

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