Monday, February 9, 2015
Thursday, January 1, 2015
This, insulted metal snobs notwithstanding, is old school Technical Death Metal produced by a young band from Stockholm, heavy and progressive, and produced with lots of love for the music and little regard for current trends within the metal genre. If you like Death's Individual Thought Patterns or even--dare I make the comparison--Atheist's Piece of Time, you'll like this. It's fantastic.
Simple enough, when it comes down to it, no long essays as I usually produce are really necessary. Go listen, and Happy New Year.
File Under: The Best Album of 2014
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
To give them credit, the response I got was quick. It was also negative. The band in their reply noted politely that February 1 was Super Sunday.
Didn't know that indie bands gave a shit about the Super Bowl, but hey. No Miami show. Guess I'll be driving somewhere. Melanie's got people in Tampa, and Cerveza has someone in Gainesville, we'll see who wants to roadtrip more.
Don't think that not doing something is an option. Parquet Courts have rapidly become one of the most important indie bands out there, and to be honest one of the few I care about. This Sunbathing joint is not their best one yet, if only because it almost doesn't make sense to talk about any one of their four releases as best. They've worked quickly (so quickly, in fact that Sunbathing Animal, though issued in 2014, is no longer even their most recent
Sunbathing, since I haven't heard Content Nausea is a great fucking album, and one that draws on only the best. "Instant Disassembly" manages to channel both Pavement and Television. "Black and White" makes you think of Pavement and Wire.
Alright. Pavement are sort of like the elephant in the room, if people are always talking about that elephant. Yeah, they sound like Pavement. So what? Stephen Malkmus isn't bothered by it, so why should anyone else be? Hell, Parquet Courts could have chosen to sound like Linkin Park or something. And the other thing is, to sound like Pavement, you got to have good songs and melodies, and the ability to play noodly skronky guitar solos, harmonies and clever lyrics.
Who's got all that, anymore? Even Malkmus himself has been reduced at this point to only one of the five, maybe two on a better than average Jicks track.
Let us not nitpicks our talents, let us celebrate them. "Always Back in Town" is a great song from Sunbathing, the title track rips, and "Ducking and Dodging," too. Parquet Courts are quirky, intelligent and rocking, and they've got the right fucking influences.
Good enough for me, and damn good enough for 2014.
File under: According To You
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
For all that, the album has its ups and downs. Some of the tracks do not differentiate themselves from any sludge doom you may care to name; others, however, sparkle. Lengthy dirges "Into the Marshland," and "At the Foot of Mt. Driskill" are shiver-inducing for their tone, and yes, melody. "Feral Faun," though after a pastoral intro just as long and just as dirgeful, did not grab me, because the tone and melody were not there. A third class of track, dubbed interludes, but perhaps given the brutal and unrelenting nature of the remainder of the material better understood as respites, lets the band flash its more proggy horns, as they are shorter much more tranquil works, employing organ, acoustic guitar and clean female vocals.
The entire effect even with the weaker tracks is stunning. Heathen is 75 minutes that hammer you, then gives you a break, then hammers you some more. With nods to Parquet Courts and Witch Mountain and Woods of Desolation and Mr. Jarmusch, and some others, I don't think it's the best album I've heard this year, but it is definitely one of them. It's very good, and considering that there are people out there who liked Heathen even more than I did, Thou are certainly a band to follow, and one that is dare I say, notable.
Funny to find, then, that Wikipedia's once-extant page on the band has been deleted for non-notability. We're all used to seeing Wikipedia act in strange ways when it comes to politics, but heretofore I'd thought that articles on the arts wouldn't be subject to stupid revert wars.
This offends more than just my metal fandom. I know this doesn't apply to academia (so much), but the rest of us have made Wikipedia the default authority to appeal to, in much the same way we've made Amazon our default bookseller--all great until Amazon decides they don't really want to sell the books of those authors published by Hachette, or Wikipedia decides that this sludge metal is just a little too specialized for inclusion.
I don't know; maybe it's just me. The other thing I think of is that the band themselves could have put their page back at any time. So maybe they don't care. Which would mean that the site I look toward for capusle biographies has simply become irrelevant while I wasn't looking.
And that would be just as upsetting.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
The idea that the good stuff is over by the time you've heard of it will be a familiar one to anybody who came of age during the Bush presidency, but it is also a particularly apt one for rock and roll.
Were you at Cream's Farewell Concert? Did you catch a date on the Sex Pistols' American tour? Did you attend one of Kyuss' Generator Parties?
Me neither. Time waits for no man, all that, all that. And even if you're lucky enough to co-exist with the good stuff, your particular accidents of hometown and employment obligation most often conspire to shut you out.
Witness Witch Mountain. The closest analogue to them may be Fairport Convention, wherein a solid, though unspectacular, band with a strong vision releases a debut, then is re-defined when a woman of startling vocal talent joins up.
Witch Mountain's Sandy Denny was named Uta Plotkin, and her soaring two-octave voice, full of vibrato and blued notes each at different registers, turned a decent band into a great one. Witch Mountain play a fairly distinctive brand of bluesy doom metal. Dread as you would expect is certainly one of the emotions conveyed, but especially after Plotkin's entry, the music is also colored by brooding melancholy, giving it a multidimensionality not often seen in cult metal. And never mind Plotkin's voice--its capabilities are not often seen in rock and roll.
And <sigh> now it's all over. Plotkin announced earlier this year that with the release of Mobile in September, she would be leaving the band.
The rest of the undeniably talented band--drummer Nate Carson, bassist Charles Thomas, and guitarist Rob Wrong--has been careful to emphasize that they will continue, as they search for a new vocalist, but some mere months after I discovered the group, it's hard not to think of Fairport, and believe the best is probably (once again) past.
File under: Carpe Diem, 2014
Friday, December 26, 2014
I'm sure you pick up on the difference.
Quentin Tarantino, for example, has become known for assembling obsurities and forgotten hits into his soundtracks that capture the mood he wants to create. Yet his soundtracks are for the most part compilations and not original. April March's incredible "Chick Habit," to mention just one song that has become linked with Tarantino's musical curation, was originally released 12 years before it was used in Death Proof. And, you know, "Stuck in the Middle With You" wasn't original to the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack, either.
What QT does is interesting, and sometimes maddening, but it's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm not talking about The Singles soundtrack, or The Graduate's, or the one to Clerks. Great music in all of these, and pretty much groundbreaking across the board for their use of the music in a film context, yes. But the music contained in the soundtrack was not original to the film.
What I want to talk about here are the few original motion picture soundtracks that have gained a fame separate and apart from the movie they were designed to score.
I've written about how the album assembled from Tangerine Dream's score to Sorcerer may actually be their best; I know for a fact that Friedkin's movie is fantastic, yet the sountrack is to my mind, both better and more significant.
And I think this rare case--original soundtrack outshining the movie--may be what we have with Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
Only Lovers has its flaws, too. Jarmusch's films always look great, and his new one is no different. Set in both Detroit and Tangier, the film presents Detroit as a dark and nearly abandoned landscape, in gorgeous ruin, a space ten times too big for its current bedraggled population. And the Old City of Tangier looks exactly like what it is: 2500 years old, full of mysterious alleyways and tunnels slithering through the sandstone buildings.
Yet as gorgeous as this vampire movie is, it's not much for plot.
It's not surprising that Jarmusch has finally made a vampire movie. Ever since The Lost Boys, Western pop culture has varnished the older vampire tropes with a thick patina of cool. And Jarmusch has always of course been obsessed with cool.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston by turns have it all down pat: the dark shades, the even darker clothes, the buzz-music, the world-weariness, the name- and relic-dropping, the contempt for the squares.
Adam with his collection of stringed instruments and Eve with her books (and Christopher Marlowe with his notoriety) are certainly a solid foundation for any movie Jarmusch may have cared to make. Plus vampires, right? But each time a fragment of plot threatens to break out, Jarmusch's script squashes it flat.
Listen: your movie can't just be a music video, and your characters can't simply be receptacles for cool. A story might be nice, but there has to be more.
In a way, though, I guess, there is something more. There is the soundtrack album. Along with a Dutch lute player* by the name of Jozef van Wissem, the music for Only Lovers is played by SQÜRL, a band led by Jarmusch himself. And the music is such a success that the cynic in me wonders whether Jarmusch made the film as a vehicle for the music, rather than the other way around.
The movie begins with montages of our two characters as they go about their separate jaded ways in their separate jaded rooms, with the band's version of Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love" swirling as the camera swirls. Guitars highly distorted by wah-wah and fuzz pan across the soundfield as a woman by the name of Madeline Follin alternately howls and warbles. It's tremendous, and from there, in the manner of an extended music video, the movie sews together bits of Eastern-ish drone, doom, infinite delay postrock, and yes, Elizabethan lute into a collage that, when completed, easily outshines the movie it was created for.
I have reservations about Jarmusch's movie, but none whatsoever about his music. I believe that the Only Lovers Left Alive original soundtrack is not only one of the best albums I heard in 2014, it is one of the best original soundtracks ever made.
File Under: Vampire Blues, 2014
*And isn't this a nice Elizabethan touch, in a movie that features Christopher Marlowe in a supporting role? (Return)