REVIEW: Melvins’ “Hold It In”

 photo MelvinsHII_cover_zpsc7b39747.jpg What can you say about a band who has made over 5392 albums in their career, and they decide to release another one? You dive in to fine out what happens. In truth, you can say that Hold It In (Ipecac) is Melvins’ nth album, and to be honest I’ve pretty much lost track of how many albums they’ve released so far. What I can say that for this album, Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are joined by Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus to create music that sounds distinctly like Melvins music, a pinch of the Butthole magic, but also something else entirely. WHat makes this magical in a Melvins sense is that it retains the heaviness and sludge everyone has come to know and love but for these recordings, some of the songs reach a level not unlike the Foo Fighters or Queens Of The Stone Age, in that they’re, dare I say it, almost accessible. That comes through how Buzzo sings in portions of the songs, as if he’s trying to present himself as an all new man. Well, at least for some songs. What also makes this work is how Pinkus and Leary also share lead vocal duties, which also helps bring it a Foo/QOTSA vibe partially because it doesn’t stop stereotypically Melvins-ish, if that makes any sense. All of a sudden, they’re turning themselves inside out to do a country song. With songs like “Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad”, “Sesame Street Meat”, and “House Of Gasoline”, you feel like it is an “anything goes” thing but it’s a Melvins album, you have to come in expecting unpredictable titles, stories, and arrangements.

Loosely, you could say that this is the album Melvins has been holding back from releasing, if they wanted to make big hits. Want to hear the Kiss influences? It’s still there. Want to hear something on the level of The Swans? Still there. Then again, this is Melvins, they’re far from the big hit band and yet they know they’re capable of doing something on that level. A part of me wants to say they’re holding back from being a hit machine but they’ve done the major label thing before, and I think at this point in their careers, as long as they’re still having fun, they are going to churn out whatever they want. They could be funky and groove happy like Big Chief for the next album, or do some music that sounds like a cross between Paula Abdul and Kim Gordon on the next one. No matter, for if you love Melvins, it doesn’t matter what they’ll do next, you’ll bow down and follow, as we all should on a regular basis. Hold It In is what it sounds like if they allowed themselves to let go for awhile. Like a wet water hose.

REVIEW: Andrew Judah’s “Monster”

 photo AndrewJudah_coverSML_zps62f00cb3.jpg Andrew Judah is an artist who likes to include folk qualities within his pop flavored music, helping his songs to have a bit of depth with accessible sensibilities, which is what he does throughout Monster. However, folk qualities aren’t the only thing he includes in his material, for there are hints of blues, rock, and even occasional soulful qualities, which I hear in some of his vocal harmonies. I like what he offers here because as I become comfortable with what he may be doing in a song, he’ll head elsewhere (if not a few places) in one section and he’s turning himself into a multi-headed monster. I mean that in a complimentary way, and I would compare him to someone like Lindsey Buckingham, ready to unveil is influences and dish a number of them at the same time to offer new shades of color in his songs. “I Know You Know”, “Better & Better” and “In The Sun” each have the potential to become bigger productions than what exists here. If he isn’t careful, he could become this generation’s Todd Rundgren. Eh, he’s careful, I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing and I hope he continues it for awhile.

REVIEW: Sleepmakeswaves’ “Love Of Cartography”

 photo SleepmakeswavesLOC_cover_zps43fa6675.jpg If post-rock has spokesmen, Sleepmakeswaves would be a band that would stand amongst some of the best spokespeople around. Love Of Cartography (Waterfront) is the latest album from this Australian group who pound the shit out of their instruments with harmony and kindness, which is a way of saying that while they are a powerful band who use volume and strength to carry their electricity to the next level, they also understand the in between steps to create wonderful songs. As with previous efforts, this album is completely instrumental and they do things in a careful manner, step by step, so that each listener will be able to travel along with them slowly but surely. When you know something is about to happen, you may or may not feel it. When you’re let go out of an airplane and meant to fall, you’re unsure of how you will land but take the ride anyway. It’s also a great album for those who love their music riff driven, which evenly balances out for those who may prefer textures, bridges, and other things that are a way for them to go on different journeys. It’s a wonderful ride from start to finish, especially for those who prefer to hear music without words, or to know of a song with nothing but just a title as an identifier. Love Of Cartography is an album that holds up well and will remember long after its final notes leave the speakers.

REVIEW: Clipping’s “CLPPNG”

 photo Clipping_cover_zps74ed34c8.jpg While Clipping released their debut album for Sub Pop in June, I didn’t get an advance for it nor did I get a copy of the album from the label or a publicity agent. Of course, I’ve had the album with me for four months and while it would be preferred to review the album within the first two weeks of its release in order to have more people buy it, I delayed it only because I always get loads of other albums to review. That might lead some to say “wait now: are you talking about wanting to review this album and yet you didn’t bother to put everything else on the side and just make Clipping. a top priority?” It’s not exactly like that even though it may seem like it but the point is, four months after its release and five months after other journalists received their copies, I am now going to review the group’s debut album, CLPPNG.

If you are like me and got into Clipping. because of the heavily noisy instrumental textures, you might listen to some of these songs and say “wait now: these tracks are actually nice sounding.” That will lead me to ask you this: what’s wrong with being nice? If you got into Clipping. due to how funky and laid back their music gets in a fashion that may make you put this on while cruising on the streets, you might listen to some of these songs and say “wait now: some of these songs are just way too noisy for me. What’s going on?” What this album does is evenly blends the crunk grooves with the chaotic eccentricities they’re able to have and include in their music because they can. Blame part of the attitude of Clipping to MC Daveed Diggs, who rhymes in a number of styles because he refuses to be stagnant at any time of the day. It’s safe to say that even when he dreams, he’s writing in pamphlet form. Blame part of the attitude of Clipping to William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, who have created some demented music in their pasts. If you know of Captain Ahab and Necklacing, then you had a slight sense of what they’re capable of doing and why they make the music they do within Clipping. No one is making music like this, in any genre and in hip-hop, they come off like aliens who are landing on Earth to show what they’ve learned from your planet, and present themselves making sounds that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard and everything you’ve missed throughout your life. The stories told by Diggs may be abstract at first as if he’s Kool Keith or Cappadonna, but pay attention closely and what you’ll hear are tales that you may have heard from someone at the post office, at the supermarket, the bus stop, or someone in the restroom who has the urge to freestyle everywhere he roams. The point is, CLPPNG is very much an intense listen because they crafted it that way, meant to sound normal for some but also meant to come off like something made in the future that traveled to this time period, as a way to warn you of what’s to come. It’s coded music to tell you to not ignore the goodness of modern times, as they will not be around when the future comes around, which will arrive much quicker than we’d expect it to.

REVIEW: Analog’s “Arrow Of God”

 photo Analog_cover_zpsff63158e.jpg Arrow Of God is an album by Preach Jacobs and Dose that sounds like it would have been released between 1991-1993 and managed to have a massive following in a few regions, making them cherished songs that would become classics for a generation or two. Performing together as Analog, Preach and Jacobs and Dose make music that sounds classic due to the samples within the production and rhyming flows that are strong but not egotistical. Preach tells stories with a beginning and end, and what you want to hold on to is the essence of what is in the middle. It reminds me of the kind of music you might expect from people like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Rakaa, Soup, and early Black Eyed Peas, back when was more about lyricism and less about winning a Grammy. In fact, what I like about this album is that it sounds like it is of another time, not quite fitting of the now and yet it needs to be heard during this struggling musical time. If people don’t get this in a modern context, there will be an audience in twenty years who will say “I can’t believe Preach Jacobs and Dose existed back then, considering the other junk that was getting a free pass.” If this is the kind of music meant to, as the lyrics say in “Black Radio”, stay underground, may the underground continue you to rock well.

REVIEW: As We Draw’s “Mirages”

 photo AsWeDraw_cover_zpsd81d2df0.jpg The music of As We Draw sounds as if they’re trying to create themselves into a vulgar ocean wave, ready to build upon itself until it hits land and floods the vicinity. That is how I felt when I was listening to Mirages (Throatruiner), a set of music that brings to mind the hyperactive moods of Fugazi, Helmet, and Sunny Day Real Estate. What I enjoy about their music is how they develop a mood, stay with it for parts of the song and then they may turn it around and turn it into something else unexpected. When they do maintain a mood, it feels good from start to finish and you’ll want to hear those songs again. Too many people may point the finger to emo- this or emo- that but it’s a way of saying that they feel an emotion when they hear the music and lyrics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some moments are played with a deepness and darkness that makes it sound close to a metal or hardcore band, other times the beauty within may may it sounds something complex that a math rock band may master. I love the building of different textures in their songs, and it makes me want to listen to it to feel it as a whole before it reaches its coda.

REVIEW: Fair Maiden’s self-titled EP

 photo FairMaiden_cover_zps5d042ccb.jpg Not sure what I expected to hear when I read this EP was by a group calling themselves Fair Maiden but maybe the Maiden part won me over. However, the music is a bit on the fair side, if not a bit weaker. In other words, I wasn’t happy with their brand of indie pop and rock, where at times they’re singing with a lackluster effort, as if they’re trying hard to reach the good notes but don’t always make it. I do like the voice of the lady who sings with a higher voice, at least she is able to make the songs listenable, wanting me to listen and keep track of the stories involved but the rest of this just drags on, which I didn’t want to hear after song two.

My point is, I am sure that Fair Maiden have found an audience that will enjoy their music, with audiences soon to grow in the near future but their music not to my liking, as much as I had hoped.

REVIEW: The Uce’s “Fast Food N Gangs”

 photo TheUce_cover_zpsbd15d4e5.jpg The Uce is a rapper out of Hawai’i who may be known as Slo-Mo to those who remember him from Fortilive, and outside of coming from my homeland, he is a rapper who has the wit, skills, and expertise to make his songs sound good and better, which is what he does in Fast Food N Gangs. The album is about living his life in his own way and trying to deal with the issues of the day, his surroundings, and what he must do to maintain a level of sanity. While The Uce sounds like someone who could be rhyming from a neighborhood in Atlanta, Raleigh, Watts, or Tacoma, I still hear a sense of localness that makes me feel good because while most people outside of the islands may not catch some of the reference, he still sounds like he’s proud of where he’s from. He sounds as if he’s saying “you’re welcome to visit, but it’s my home, a true home, you can see the reality I live on a regular basis.” In fact, the cover photo featuring an old pic of Whitmore Market in Wahiawa will definitely bring back some memories for those who will remember the area, nothing more than a corner store or market but one that is a timeline of where you’ve been and where you’re going. In fact, the title Fast Food N Gangs may sound like there may be a dark mood to the album but there isn’t. It’s about understanding the surroundings and dealing with it, making things and life better and honoring the community that is yours. It is very much about Hawaiian hip-hop but it’s bigger than that too, and I hope people will listen to that, to relate to fitting in where you reside and hoping for the best.

REVIEW: Andrew St. James’ “The Shakes”

 photo AmdrewStJames_cover_zpsd7371185.jpg Andrew St. James’ The Shakes (self-titled) is music for those who like latter-day/the current phase of Flaming Lips, if Wayne Coyne was strictly acoustic. Some of it sounds like a wholesome country or Americana album where St. James’ stories are content enough to not only listen to, but remember and sing along to yourself. The inclusion of the Hammond B-3 gives some songs a stronger feel, I don’t want to say sacred but I love the B-3 and when I hear it in a lot of jazz, I’m brought “home” in the sense that I want to hear my abdomen bathe in it so I can feel rich and tangy. St. James makes good rich and tangy songs, where he speaks about traveling in his lifetime but sometimes feeling lost, or at least unsure if his current location will be to his liking. The use of saxophone by Ralph Carney in “5 Years” has a slight “Baker Street” feel to it, or maybe it’s a Clarence Clemons vibe, but it returns to feeling what is rich and tangy and wanting to sit in a tavern and having two servings of whatever they’re serving. What I also liked was the fanzine assembly approach of the album cover artwork, where it looks as if St. James obtained some photos, cut it himself done not in a professional manner but look, who cares, it’s the music that matters most. There is a homemade feel to the artwork but the music could easily become something that takes on a following if he allows himself more into the world. I think he’s already there.

REVIEW: Hanam Quintet featuring Tristan Honsinger’s self-titled album

 photo Hanam_cover_zps2842fea1.jpg Alison Blunt (violin), Anna Kaluza (alto sax), Manuel Miethe (soprano sax), Nikolai Meinhold (piano) and Horst Nonnenmache (double bass) are the five that make up the Hanam Quintet, who recorded the album in two different locations, the Lumen Church in London and the Collegium Hungaricum in Berlin. The pieces are untitled as they speak to one another in a very comforting manner, as if they were people having a casual conversation at the park or at the mall. You can hear them as being oddly freaky or sensually beautiful, a bit like watching the origins of something being creative at high speed. The last part of the album is a three-part, 17 minute composition that features cellist Tristan Honsinger, who helps to bring the quintet into his world and he into theirs for a bit more conversation, although sometimes the silence shared between themselves is what makes this work nicely too. I also found the artwork by Sandrao Crisafi to be quite engaging too, allowing myself to interpret it along with the music if and when I wanted to.