We Have Not Doors You Need Not Keys (La Société Expéditionnaire) consists of some very nice pop flavored rock, or is it rock flavored pop? Either way, what Judson Claiborne does is fairly decent but I don’t know if I could find myself to repeatedly listen to it, or something I’d frequently return to. There’s pros and cons to this.
I find the songs to be compelling, as each one tell a story that is meant to be told without any illusions or delusions. I am reminded through the singing, the voice of Bono of U2. I like that bit of familiarity and it is what kept me going throughout hearing this album. However, not wanting to listen to it repeatedly doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it at all. It’s just not something I’d want to listen to over and over, which is a good thing since I often feel that the current methods of hearing a pop song borders on overkill, even though it is the human who can cut that transaction off between song and mind at any time. Then again, I like U2 a lot and often like listening to them. I don’t find that with them and again, I don’t hate music at all. There are parts that I found to be boring, but those boring moments definitely don’t dominate. I think it’s music that is meant to be listened to once, and one desires to return to it in a few years. Then again, someone may feel moved enough to make this their daily ritual, and I understand this completely. I’ll see what happens in a few years when I may want to play “Old Buddha” or “Seeing Blue Ponies” again. Until then, I think one moving listen was good enough. For now.
Sonya Carmona (Lead vocals, guitar) and Alison Alvarado (Drums, vocals) call themselves not only an experimental noise rock duo, but their moniker as a duo is called Colornoise. Polychronic is their latest album (their second), and if you ever wanted to hear how the rock it out in Costa Rica, this is one variable. You may not have heard of them, but Alvarado and Carmona plan on doing extensive touring throughout 2014, so get familiar with them and their sound.
Swallow My Bone (Load) by Whore Paint is one of the more diverse albums I’ve heard in 2013. They may call themselves “no wave”, but in terms of what and how they play, and what they’re singing about, maybe “no wave” is apt. These three ladies from Providence, Rhode Island are social and political when they want to be in their music. They do this in a number of ways, from gutsy punk rock to bringing in elements of pop, progressive rock, and even math rock equations.
There are too many people who will look at a band like Whore Paint and go “oh, they are women, I am taken aback by this”, which brings up the question: why? Or it will lead to “oh, they’re good… for women?” It’s all the dreaded stereotypes that shouldn’t exist but do. I am certain there are people who would see them on a concert flyer, walk into a club and see what’s on stage, leading to the thought “let’s see what these chicks can do”, as if what they are makes a true impact on the quality of their music. It doesn’t. What Whore Paint offers is damn good music that should be liked by anyone and everyone, and what appeals to me is how they’ll comfortably move from something that is loud and vulgar to something calm and complex, and then carry on towards the next song and make a cacophony. Vocalist Rebecca Mitchell has a voice that is comfortable in sounding like everyone from Kelly Canary to Kim Shattuck, Tanya Donelly to The Great Kat, and it would be interesting to experience that in person. Drummer Meredith Stern plays with the kind of fervor that is not unlike Mudhoney’s Dan Peters and Unsane’s Charlie Ondras. When she eases up, she plays in a calm and maintained fashion but when the volume is turned up, she’s up there with everyone else. Guitarist Hilary Jones also handles the bass duties through the use of octave dividers, which also breaks the stereotype of “every other alternative band has a female bassist”. Whore Paint do not, but they do have a musician who does double duty, and it sounds quite good.
Whore Paint could be considered a feminist band, but that may be limiting for those who wish to limit them. Their lyrics are not as bitter as someone like Bikini Kill, but the sting in some verses are just the same. One doesn’t have to listen to them with the thought of them being a message band, because they play and sing incredibly well to where you’ll want to rock out because their output sounds (and thus feels) good. Yet after hearing Swallow My Bone and listening a bit deeper, you may be taken aback more at your own concepts and perceptions of people and yourself, and rethink your values. Then play the album with a sharper sense of everything. My perception is that I wish Whore Paint could be massive, have a huge following, and just do serious damage but I don’t think the mainstream is ready for them. I say that, despite the fact that they mix their punk and metal playing with pop sensibilities so they may one day offer some pop-friendly works for hits (if hits from rock bands still exist in the 2010′s) while keeping the more abrasive stuff for the albums (if music fans still buy and care for albums in the 2010′s). I like… no. I love what I’m hearing on this album, and I hope it becomes a punch in the face for anyone who feels there aren’t any rocking albums being made today.
New Alterbeats music means more intense listening (and if you say otherwise, maybe you are the one who isn’t listening). A compilation album called Class Struggle, highlighting the works of the Alterprod collective, will be released on the 29th of October and this is the first juicer, a track which brings in Guilty Simpson and The Rockness Monstah (b/k/a Rock). The publicist called this a “leak” but it’s not a true leak if it’s acknowledged. It’s a promotional tool, a tease, and it’s a song for you to hear so here, have a sip of “Fruit Punch”.
Time seemed to go by fairly fast between the moment the first 20/20 Experience dropped and the second one made itself known. The first volume in this new Justin Timberlake musical saga ran a little over an hour, so to have an extra hour of music seemed awesome, gratifying, and insane. With the first volume, I felt Timberlake had created the perfect definition of an album, a risk in 2013 when most pop fans aren’t flocking to albums as people used to. People have continued to bash Timberlake for whatever reason: being white, being a country boy, and being someone he isn’t so he decided to challenge the naysayers. For The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) (RCA) he decided to embrace what the naysayers are saying about him and to throw it back at everyone.
I liked the first Experience a lot so as I started listening to the second installment, I thought a few things. At first, I didn’t think these songs were that good, at first. Obviously, by calling the albums a 20/20 Experience, he wants us to get a full vision of what he’s trying to create but I wondered “is this just too many extras? Are these just songs that should’ve been left to be bonus or non-LP tracks?” The one thing that was immediate: Timbaland. His style is great and you know it is his sound that is being heard, and that made up for what I was feeling with the first two tracks. What changed things was the third track, one that featured Drake called “Cabaret”. I’m not what you’d call a Drake fan but I’ll listen, and his performance here is fairly decent. The pairing here works, and that was the moment the album got better and more interesting. While Jay-Z makes an appearance on the Experience with “Murder”, his references to John Lennon and Yoko Ono seemed half-assed and misinformed, and I felt that in a world where anyone and everyone can do a search on Google, he is someone who came off as clueless as J. Lo in the claim that Ono had what it had taken to break-up The Beatles. Incorrect, Mr. Carter, put on a dunce cap for that.
There are three noticeable things on this album that stood out from the rest of the material. “Drink You Away” has a very strong country feel with gospel roots, but it could also be a blues song. To me, it seems that if Timberlake senses his style of soul/pop could lose a following, he could always move over to the country side. It wouldn’t be a problem, and maybe people remember that photo of him with Britney Spears where they both showed off their denim duds. He most likely grow up with a good share of country too and this could easily become a song he performs next year as part of a collaboration with a country artist at next year’s Grammy award ceremonies. Or do a country remix with Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town. I can see it, and he should do it. The other thing is the rock feel of “Only When I Walk Away”, which for some reminded me of Janet Jackson when she did “Black Cat” and how people felt it was a stretch, a challenge, and a risk. One might argue that that can be said for Timberlake, which will lead others to say “well he’s white, he doesn’t have to worry about risk” but still, rock isn’t familiar to most even though he once played bass with the Flaming Lips for a television performance. Why shouldn’t any artist be able to play around with genres and have fun? By the time the album gets to this point, the mood of the album had gone beyond fun.
The third thing I noticed happens in the last third, where lyrically he starts to get more aggressive and swears a bit, as if he’s trying to show a hip-hop edge or by being a rock’n'roll bad boy, but I wondered if it was truly necessary. Timberlake can be whatever he wants in his music, and yet I have always felt he had been reserved and pushed himself to an established limit and never went past it. I’m old enough to full understand what those vulgarities mean, I do not need a parental advisory but I don’t think the songs really needed them, as the attitude he wants to establish is already there. Fortunately, this feeling isn’t something that happens throughout but maybe for Timberlake, this is very much a part of the Experience that he wants to share, that full vision that allows listeners to understand where he is coming from, even if some of those elements are unnecessary.
In comparison, the second Experience is good but not as good as the first. As a whole, both Experiences are masterful and are this generation’s Use Your Illusion, displaying an artist who is willing to share his heart and soul to everyone, and to see how far he can and is willing to go. At the same time, some of the songs here can be considered seeds for where he could find himself next. He doesn’t have to kowtow to anyone, and I feel Timberlake could make any type of music at this point and be a success, and I’m sure he is confident in knowing this. Anything he does could be considered a risk, and yet he is a risk taker doing the tasks by his own rules, within his own limitations, which are probably non-existent. A lot of music today is marked with designer labels, but it’s nice to hear a major label artist pulling off the kind of things today that were once part of the norm in the music industry years ago, while still understanding the standards that once were. To be limitless while holding to the limits shows incredible restraint, and one wonders what would happen if he really let himself go. Maybe that is his full vision, The 20/20 Experience in its grandest form. If we allow ourselves to fully see, imagine what would happen if we allowed ourselves to fully listen.
Gary Minkler sounds like someone who has done his share of traveling, crashing in homes and villages, smoked a lot of cigarettes, had his share of strong coffee, pours in a bit of special blend alcohol to make it taste better even though flavor may not be his thing. At least that’s what the music on Little Trailer Ruby (Green Monkey) sounds like, sounds from a trooper who knows nothing but to move forward. I often speak of albums I would find in my uncle’s collection, stuff that I feel I could only find in his stash, or the type of records I would not have discovered if I didn’t go to one of my dad’s friend’s house and was able to zone out in front of the stereo. It’s a multi-genre album, the type that were made long before anyone cared about an album going everywhere from pop to rock, country to classical, and whatever else they felt like. I imagine Minkler being the type of guy who may have books full of lyrics ready to be translated into music, or perhaps one notepad with just his best material, and he knows the right people who will do it. I almost want to say Minkler’s music is like a less-crazy and less-insane Frank Zappa, or if Zappa’s passion for doo-wop transformed into making pop music for people who seek to be popular, it would sound like this. Yet, Minkler isn’t exactly what I’d call a modern day pop artist, not in the sense of Drake, Robin Thicke, or Bruno Mars. This is one of those rustic guys that you want to seek because he makes music that sounds like yesterday but suits you today because you don’t care for stupid shit like timeliness. It’s music meant to be played by friends in a garage or basement with empty Zig Zag packets everywhere and trash cans full of overflowing empties, singing songs about lost times, growing old, and the validity of our existence. A very satisfying listen.
(Jokingly, the first person I thought Minkler sounded like was Richard Marin in his “Testimonial by R. Zimmerman” skit from Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album, which I realize was meant to be a parody of Bob Dylan but that comparison to Dylan’s raspiness is apt here.)
Clara May is not a woman but a six-man band who have produced the album American Desi, and if you love good bar band rock, you’re going to love these guys. Some of the tracks have vocalist Tom Silva sounding like Michael Hutchence of INXS mixed in with a bit of Iggy Pop, and that energy helps to push the music forward with a nice dose of excitement. The feel of things are right nice throughout, where I felt as if I was entering a club and hearing them for the first time, wondering if I should leave and get some doughnuts or stick around and hope I’ll be taken away by it. I chose to stay. I didn’t want to pick up a band T-shirt because I was broke, but I would not mind coming back to get one and perhaps a CD. Or at least sign my name for their mailing list. They’re that kind of band that demonstrate that the rock’n'roll spirit that critics are bitching about as being dead and buried is far from being either.
The Woolly Moon have released a new single on their own label, The Epiphysis Foundation, and are committed to show how much they enjoy doing what they do. I’m not sure if these two songs were recorded to analog or that I’m catching a nice amount of studio air, but I love how “Pulse” begins, with a bit of tape hiss welcoming in the listener before the drums enters the song. The vocalist has a slightly off-key feel, not unlike Lou Reed or Bob Dylan, but without trying to sound distinctively like either. As for the band, the dynamics they create are quite good, placing the guitar solo in at the right moment, the bass guitar becoming the anchor and dominating with the melody while the drummer bangs his way all the way through like the loon he may be, but maintaining his composure. “The Mountain” definitely sounds like an A-side, very hit/radio friendly with most of the things that an alterna- hit should have. A part of me thinks that the musicians and the vocalist are both independent in their own right, as there are times when I feel the band would work better with a much stronger singer, while other times I think the off key (or perhaps I should say poetic) vocals are just right. The thing is, The Woolly Moon originally started as being a one-man project for Zach Mazzola, and it would be hard for him to say “I’ll leave myself so I can be better with myself and you guys, you should rock on with greater success.” Then again, maybe Mazzola can do his thing in a Tom Petty-sort of way, where he stays within the limits of his vocal range but tries to give it a bit more punch. Otherwise, I think Mazzola has found a group of musicians who know how to execute some great music for him.
(The single will be released on October 18th.)
Cat Rapes Dog released a new album a few weeks ago called Life Was Sweet (Artoffact). The Swedish electropunk band have existed since the early 1980′s, but this is their first album in 14 years. By honoring The Beatles with their album cover and giving it the Life Was Sweet title, one wonders if this will become the group’s last recording. Only time will tell.