I’ll be doing monthly wrap-ups for now on. Since I missed the end of May, I’ll just pretend I didn’t in the future. Anyway, let’s talk about some stuff:
Chvrches – Every Open Eye
I got introduced to Chvrches after going to The Game Awards in 2015 where they performed Leave A Trace. They’re what I would call electronic pop hooked together by lead vocals from Lauren Mayberry. I say pop because all of the tracks are insanely catchy. I found myself, someone who typically observes stoically, dancing along to a lot of the tunes. Tracks like Clearest Blue, High Enough To Carry You Over, and Empty Threat just asked to be moved along with. Whereas other songs like Never Ending Circles, Keep You On My Side, and Playing Dead are easy to sing along with.
You can see how the album’s variances between karaoke and dance tracks makes it easy to listen to the whole thing without realizing it. I ended up buying Every Open Eye pretty quickly and I still listen to it on occasion. Whenever I start playing it I’ll end up going through the whole thing. It also helps that the final track, Afterglow, is a decent finisher track. 4/5
Christine and the Queens – Christine and the Queens
I was invited to a Grimes concert in Los Angeles and the opening acts were Christine and the Queens, and Tei Shi. I had never heard of either artist so I decided to check them out before going to the show. Christine and the Queens is practically a solo artist from France. “The Queens,” are the band members, much like “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Christine’s lyrical content touches on LGBT topics, which seems to be the draw for a lot her fans (by the way her legal name is Heloise Letissier, but every fan I met at the concert referred to her as “Christine”). For example the first track on the album is called “iT” and some of the lines include: “she wants to be a man, but she lies, she wants to be born again, but she’ll lose, she draws her own crotch by herself, but she’ll lose because it’s a fake, it’s a fake, it’s a fake, it’s a fake.” Of course she’s not a one-trick pony, with other songs delving into typical topics like love and loss, etc.
Christine’s music is something that would fit at a Grimes concert. I’d characterize it as more low-key than the hyperactive Grimes-style of electronic music, but there’s still a lot of synths. Some of my favorite tracks include Saint Claude, Tilted (which was named Song of the Year by Time), Science Fiction, and Paradis Perdus. Paradis Perdus is unique because it’s actually a mix of an original song by Christine and a cover of Kanye West’s Heartless. It’s an interesting blend, and as a huge Kanye fan, made me like Christine quite a lot. I purchased the album, and I’d say the whole thing is worth listening to but the last few tracks are extremely forgettable. For a first album, it’s a quality debut. 3/5
Tei Shi – Verde
The other opener at the Grimes concert was a lesser known artist named Tei Shi. On her Wikipedia there’s a line from The Fader that says she’s “known for making whispery, slow and sensual bedroom pop,” which sounds somewhat accurate but her best song is the complete opposite. I specifically listened to her “Verde” release because it had the track “Bassically,” which might be the most empowering song I’ve ever heard. An explanation doesn’t do it much justice, so I’d give it a listen. The anchor point of the song is Tei Shi’s vocals that start off timid and build to this visceral yell of emotion. It’s goose-bump inducing. Hearing that song live is an experience. The rest of the songs off of Verde are ok. Go Slow is a stand-out, but otherwise I’d hope that Tei Shi releases more. There’s potential. 2/5
Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
The friend I saw the concert with is a bit of a music junkie and they suggested a few different albums based on the previous albums I had listened to so far. Since I had The Postal Service, and I mentioned I liked it, they suggested Death Cab’s Transatlanticism. I was skeptical since Death Cab has been synonymous with ridicule but since I’m not in High School anymore I figured why not. I can say with some amount of confidence that I ended up embracing my inner emo and enjoyed the album quite a bit. I think Death Cab gets away with their style of music because the lead singer, Ben Gibbard, doesn’t make excuses for himself. All of the lyrical content on Transatlanticism is equally as hard on himself as it is on “life.”
Gibbard’s lyrics are one of the main attractions to Death Cab, specifically because of his ability to articulate difficult emotions. The track “Title And Registration,” starts off a bit bizarre, declaring that glovebox compartments should change their names because they never have gloves in them, but transitions to be about how he’d open the glovebox (a compartment that is rarely opened) and find old pictures of a past relationship. It’s a very human song, without any of the pretense found in other songs that try to depict love emotions as some grandeur concept. The rest of the album continues these themes. As for Death Cab’s comparison to The Postal Service, I’m personally more of a fan of Death Cab’s sound. The guitar/bass/drum conventional sound is more appealing to me. Especially on the pop tracks like Sound of Settling or Expo 86. 4/5
Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
Let the nostalgia of High School continue. You Forgot it in People is a deceptive album because I began listening to it for the first few tracks, but I really fell in love with the second half of the album. The first few songs are very eclectic. They fall under the loose “indie rock” definition, but with my limited palette I would say some of the songs reminded me of Interpol’s catalog. Then after the track “Looks Just Like the Sun,” which is an acoustic track, the whole album is practically a designed nostalgia trip. Every song’s content, instrument choice, and overall sound, feels like it dropped out of memory in the back of your head.
The tracks themselves are called “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl,” or “Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for Missionaries,” and songs like “Lover’s Spit,” describe a room full of people making out. Apparently the band Broken Social Scene is made up of upwards of eleven people dedicated to various different instruments, and you can hear that in the songs. With various flutes, violins, trumpets, trombones, and whatever else coming in when it feels right. It’s practically impossible to listen to these songs without reminiscing about your past. It’s a neat little experiment, and I didn’t mind having my emotions manipulated with while listening to the album. Although the first few songs grow tiresome very quickly. 3/5
Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
Hey while we’re reminiscing about High School and listening to emo music, let’s bring out the dark side, yeah? The side that listened to Linkin Park. What happened to that person? Well if they didn’t grow up, they’d probably be listening to Brand New and I mean that in the best way possible. Brand New is basically a credible version of Good Charlotte or some band like that. Their music is legitimately constructed and the content is more mature. This specific album was apparently written when the members of Brand New “had gotten very accustomed to going to funerals,” which explains a lot of the divine questioning in songs like “Jesus Christ.” I liked this album because Brand New is pretty good at crafting quiet moments, but by and large they prefer to go loud and heavy, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. Some songs, like “You Won’t Know,” are pretty obnoxious about it, with a minute and a half of near-silence then loud guitars. This is repeated in “Welcome to Bangkok.” I get that some people live for those massive drops, but I’m really over it. My personal favorites were Millstone, Jesus Christ, Degausser, and Limousine. 3/5
Death Grips – The Money Store
I actually tried listening to The Money Store a lot earlier in the year but it didn’t click. I had listened to Death Grips’ mixtape last year and was a fan of a few songs, but their first album wasn’t coming together in the same way. Then in the middle of May, it dawned on me: I need to listen to Death Grips right now. This album has practically been on repeat since. Part of it might be that there’s simply no other band like Death Grips. Within that qualifier, there’s no other album by Death Grips like The Money Store. Their approach to each album is different and the results are never exactly the same. The Money Store’s raw adrenaline and unique aesthetics are a mood you have to be in. Oddly enough the only song I skip on the whole album is I’ve Seen Footage, specifically because it’s not insane enough. It sounds too normal. Otherwise, I start the album at Get Got, and listen to the whole thing. Sometimes I skip to The Fever, or The Cage, if I’m in a rush. The whole album is a syringe of adrenaline, but one you have to get acquainted to. 5/5
Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Women, I’m A Machine
Death Grips kicked off an aggressive trend for a few albums, continuing with Death From Above1979’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. This duo is made up of a drummer, and a bassist/vocalist which makes for a very identifiable sound, but also one that struggles to mix things up. Most of the songs sound like all the other ones. I found myself preferring the tracks Romantic Rights, Blood On Our Hands, and Little Girl, compared to the rest of it so there’s clearly some difference. I can commend the sense of energy brought to the album from a distance, the truth is I didn’t spend much time listening to it. 2/5
At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command
Feeling the need to fill that hole for quality post-hardcore/punk, I gravitated toward At The Drive-In. Relationship Of Command was released in 2000 as the band’s third and final album, although the guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala would go on to form The Mars Volta. Some similarities can be drawn between the two bands but At The Drive-In’s signature is the kick-your-face in energy. The album starts off big with Arcarsenal, with a build-up leading to Bixler-Zavala’s yelling vocals. Personally I was impressed with Bixler-Zavala’s ability within the first song. He’s very clearly yelling for most of the album, but it still sounds melodic, as opposed to an untrained guttural scream. Even though rowdier frontmen have proven to be a one-trick pony, Bixler-Zavala proves his singing credentials on later tracks such as Quarantined, Non-Zero Possibility or the album’s best track: Invalid Litter Dept. As much as I enjoyed Relationship Of Command for what it was, I felt like it was really close to something even better, which is why I decided to immediately jump into the next album… 3/5
The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium
After Relationship Of Command was released, Omar-Rodriguez and Bixler-Zavala left At The Drive-In and started working on a band called “De-Facto,” they eventually formed a “fluid” lineup and the band formed into The Mars Volta. “Fluid” may be an understatement. Renown bassist Flea, plays bass on 9 of the 10 tracks for Comatorium because they individually asked him to play the track for each of the nine tracks, unable to find anyone else. In their early days, The Mars Volta were heavy into drug use, and not kind that gets humorously represented in Hollywood movies. One of the founding members of The Mars Volta died of a heroin overdose during the tour for Comatorium. Afterwards Bixler-Zavala vowed to stop doing opioids, but there’s a lot of stuff in between sobriety and opioids. Bixler-Zavala and Omar-Rodriguez’s departure from At The Drive-In was partly because of their “creative difference” over drug use in the band.
However the results speak for themselves. Deloused in the Comatorium is one of those albums where you think “you’d have to be out of your mind to make something like this.” The average song length is technically six minutes, but if you take out the two intermission tracks, the average is a little over seven minutes. The songs demand these lengths to encapsulate their epic scale. The words “rock opera” come to mind. Reviews for the album have compared The Mars Volta’s first effort as a combination of influences that lies somewhere between Rush and Tool.
As a huge Tool fan, I can say I certainly found myself falling into similar listening habits. The songs themselves have an obvious hook. Most commonly found in Bixler-Zavala’s vocals, as he sings cryptic lyrics which allude meaning even when you know what he’s saying. After the initial listen I would go back and listen to one instrument: the bass, the guitar, the drums, or the little sounds in between. Each part will go off and do their own thing or come back together in ways that makes dedicating a listen worthwhile. In short—I feel I can keep coming back to this album for a long time. I feel pretty confident saying that, since I got into Frances The Mute sometime late last year and I still turn on Cassandra Gemini and listen to the whole thing without fail. 5/5
Alright, next time I’ll post at the end of July.