Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cassette Review: John Davis and the Cicadas "El Pulpo" (Shrimper Records)

What is a song?  My music theory teacher would have a more exact answer for this, but for me, a song is something which can instantly transport you to a certain point in time the second you hear it.   It's kind of funny I only recently watched "The People vs OJ Simpson" and when I heard the song "Natural One" in there I was immediately taken back to the movie "Kids" and just where I was at in my life at that time.  (I also posted a photo of the cassingle I have, which I'm always reminded of that image when I hear that song as well)   The music created by John Davis has never been verse/chorus/verse as much as it has been magic.

On "El Pulpo" there is a a bit of psych rock.   It resembles They Might Be Giants and not just because a chorus of kids sing along on the first track- "Sugar Daddy Candy Corn", which is a lot of fun.    Overall though this music is fairly mellow.  It has a Lou Reed and even at times Bruce Springsteen style to it.    There can be funky percussion and even it can get tribal to some extent, but even a song like "Vanilla Shake" has a fun piano jangle.

I feel like if you're reading this though and if you are already a fan of John Davis, and thus John Davis and the Cicadas (Jon Secada, please don't sue!) you already have an idea of what the music is going to be like.   I don't want to name other names for various reasons, but there are people out there who have posters on their walls of "rock stars" who helped shape their youth and all of that, and for me, that can be said of John Davis.

What this cassettes come down to for me is two things: what the songs are about (because you know musically they're going to be right on) and the overall tone of it.    There is a song dedicated to Coca Cola, which is actually pretty cool, and in the opener on Side B- "Who Milks The Cow"- he lists off a who's who of pizza chains, among other topics.    Granted, this cassette isn't just about food but in some ways that is what I took out of it the most.  Am I always hungry?  Is that why?  Should we always stay hungry?

My take on all of this- and it might not be 100% accurate and you can absolutely find your own meaning in these songs- is that this starts off kind of as a fun, not really folk but sort of that kind of traditional rock singer music.   I think of it as even being something where he's sitting in front of kids playing some of these songs.   And slowly, as the songs progress, as he sits with these kids, they get a little restless and he slowly begins to lose his patience.

There is this unwinding on this cassette.  It starts off mellow enough and even I'd dare say wholesome, but by the end it feels maniacal.     It's like how Willy Wonka sang so innocently about "Pure Imagination" but then ended up going through a frightening tunnel.   But if I had to compare this with a character I do choose the Mad Hatter as there are the tick-tock banjo type of notes in a drawn out way which could certainly drive you to madness.

Music shouldn't just be about killer guitar riffs and lyrics you can tattoo on your shoulder.    Music should be about feelings.   It should spark something inside of you.   As with songs by John Davis in the past, I have no doubt that whenever I listen to this cassette it will transport me back to where I was when I first heard it.   And you can certainly argue that maybe my take on it is based more on where I'm at in my life but music, ultimately, yes, should have that personal touch.

$7 //
Edition of 150 //

Music Review: YOOP "Take Shelter"

To me, the true measure of music is how it stands up in various situations.  I listened to this album- "Take Shelter"- all the way through the first time I opened the link for it because I liked it that much from the first song.    I've also listened to it (among other times) while cleaning and while in the shower.   So, to me, if I can listen to it when I'm in all these different situations, it must be good.  (Far too often I worry that my mood sometimes can affect my opinion of a song.  Such as if a single was submitted to me on a day when I was more relaxed I might enjoy it and sometimes I worry I'm writing off certain songs not because I don't like them but because of other outside issues)

The songs of YOOP range from dreamy, blissed out rock ala Mazzy Star to something from the 1980's in the ways of synthwave.    It can just as much resemble the Cranberries at one point as it can make me want to get up and dance during the next song.    It's versatile in that respect, but the songs also flow without the listener ever wondering how they came together in the first place.   Perhaps it has more of a retro feel to it than modern but I suppose that it also something for the listener to decide.

As much as I can hear Cyndi Lauper in these songs, I can also hear Polly Scattergood.   The pianos can be somewhat sad, dark but yet the overall mood is still upbeat.   If I was going to pick a favorite song or one I think you should listen to that could get you into the whole album I'd choose "Loose Cannon".    Though the final track, which is also the title track, has the line "Wake up just in time" and I always think it's saying "Wake up, Justin", which might just be me but who knows.   If you're not listening to this one, you should be. 

Music Review: FXRRVST "MAY XXVI"

$10 CAD // //

To me, great music is timeless.   I've never been one to follow any sort of website in terms of when music is being released because I try to put up reviews as they come out but I'm not into the whole "end of year list" or anything like that.   The album "MAY XXVI" by FXRRVST is one of these instances where I missed this when it came out earlier this year but am thankful that it was still sent to me more recently because it is one of the better albums not just of this year but in general.

You never really understand how much music is dominated by men until you hear that one really great band fronted by a woman and can't find comparisons.   The music of FXRRVST is along the lines of pop punk and even "emo", which when I first heard it back in the day was along those lines of New Found Glory, Saves the Day, Get Up Kids, etc.   And I think of FXRRVST in this way but there isn't really a female counterpart to those bands (No, not even Paramore)

On some levels I can only really compare this with The Rocking Horse Winner and That Dog in the way that it's pure.     The songs are upbeat with plesant melodies, though the lyrics can be about heartbreak.    I only really think of it in a pop punk (or maybe pop rock?) sense because after you hear this a few times you will find yourself singing right along with the first song: "Time is filling me with doubt / it's overtaking me" and even further on into "Drown me in the holiest of waters".

Back in the early '00's I would've loved for there to be an album like this.   Maybe there was and I just didn't know about it because the Internet and social media weren't what they are today.  I mean, back then I was still getting CDs sent to me.   Regardless, I'm more than happy to hear it right now and just as a quick shout out I feel like this band really needs to tour with The March Divide.   This is one of those albums you'll hear and wonder "Where has this been all my life?"   You need these sweet, infectious sounds in your life whether or not you realize it or not.

Music Review: Matthew William Charles "Heads Up"

Name Your Price Download // //

It'd be rather easy to write off Matthew William Charles as a member of the folk punk community.   On a press release, I imagine the bottom line would say something like "RIYL: Sledding With Tigers / Slade and the Big Nothing / AJJ" and while that might be enough to sum it up for some people, it's not enough for me.   People can enjoy music simply based upon the genre and the idea of "This sounds like something else I like so naturally I like it".   But the other thing is that the music of Matthew Williams Charles is so much more than just folk punk, even though that is how it could be on the surface and first listen.

Through the rattles of acoustic guitars, blares of the harmonica and vocals that are just as fast paced come electric guitars and other instruments in the background which take this music one step beyond folk punk.   If you've ever heard a punk band who has had a number of albums before, you will often find that said punk band will have that token "acoustic song", which I could name names but what's the point?  MWC sounds less like those token acoustic songs and more like what would happen if a band from Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords decided to use more acoustic guitars than electric.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the lyrics of Matthew William Charles.   The first song is called "Age" and really touches on a subject I've always wondered about.  When you work in animal rescue (or if you've ever adopted a cat or dog), sometimes the exact birth date of a cat or dog might not be known and someone (usually a veternarian) just estimates it.   I've also heard this saying "You're only as old as you feel" which is intended to mean that if you're 45 you could feel 25 and that's good thing but I always think of it as being more of me feeling a lot older than I am.

I'm not sure how much of the music on "Heads Up" is inspired by the Bouncing Souls or how much I even hear of that band in this music, but the funny thing is I have a line from one of their songs stuck in my head after listening to this album so many times: "I learned some things about the places I saw / I learned some things about myself".     Any time music can teach you something- especially something about yourself- well, that my friends is a debt which cannot be repaid but I will forever try.

Music Review: 0° "RIT▽ELS" (La Souterraine)

From the second I pressed play on this album I was in love with it.   Zero Degre (which is easier than the copy/paste thing) has spoken words over singing to create this sense of poetry but the music which accompanies it is sometimes not what you would expect.    I've wondered where The Beats went and this might be an answer.

While there are these hints of jazz layered over pop, you would expect that in an overpriced coffee shop with some guy on stage wearing a turtleneck, but the thing is, as this album progresses you will hear more than just that.   There is this sort of 1980's space sound coming through and it even can turn into something like "Stranger Things" on the fourth track.

There is very much an idea of jazz improvisation in here, but I still imagine this artist as performing not in clothing often affiliated with poetry and perhaps touching notes on a keyboard while reading words out of a notebook while others play music along as well.    There are these electronic tones some artists make as music on their own but here, Zero Degre adds in drums, especially the high hats, and it's sooooo good.    Distorted walls covered in poetry is an excellent way to sum this one up and I cannot recommend it enough.

Music Review: Mega Ran "STRANGERS"

Free Download // //

As much I as am a fan of "Stranger Things" (and I am), I always said and felt like it took some of the spotlight away from "The Get Down", which to me was a much better show.   So the irony is not lost on me that we have Mega Ran putting together beats, lyrics and audio clips from the show to create these songs dedicated to the show that isn't about hip-hop. 

It took me maybe a week or two after everyone else watched Season 2 to watch it but I've finally caught up and since this EP came after Season 1 but before Season 2 I'm hoping Mega Ran does another one at some point, if nothing else for the homie Sean Astin.  I think that would be a fitting tribute, no?

What is this EP anyway?  Are people who don't watch "Stranger Things" going to even care about it?   I don't know.   Maybe listening to these songs will make you finally break down and watch the show.   I mean, I love "Stranger Things" but before the Season 2 premiere Netflix had this clock on my home page, counting down the seconds until it dropped.   I've never seen them do that with a show before and maybe "Stranger Things" deserves it.  Who am I to say?

All I know is, the show got us this collection of songs and that's all right by me.   If you don't like "Stranger Things" as a show then "STRANGERS" might become that Mega Ran album you don't rock all the time (or ever), but for fans of the show, even if you're only like a 65% fan like me, yeah, I suggest listening to this one because how many other Netflix shows have their own EPs like this?

Music Review: Tuvaband "Mess" (Brilliance Records)

The sound of Tuvaband is one which cannot be desribed with words.   The music itself has no real comparison and neither does the vocals.   The best comparison I can make overall is if you think of this as being some kind of cross between Delta Dart (How many of you remember them?) and Tori Amos, but I'm not even a huge fan of Tori Amos and I'm really enjoying these songs.

There is a beauty in these songs.   They are somewhat sad, somewhat dark, but there is a beauty in the way that they are able to express that sort of emotion regardless of what the subject matter of the lyrics-- it's more of a feeling than my take on the lyrics.    I might have used this term before but I will never be ashamed to use it because it describe something which I hold so very dear to myself: these are haunting harmonies.

If you only want to listen to one of these songs to get an idea of what Tuvaband is about, I suggest "Trees", as it is my favorite track of the six.   The comparisons of how we hurt too many trees and too many people really ring true in the year 2017.   I know this duo is not from the United States, but it seems like here in the good ol' USA we spend as much time cutting down trees without a thought as we do filling each other with bullets. 

But musically, "Trees" also shows you what Tuvaband is capable of within one song.  The reach of the tones and the genres just combine in a way unlike any I've heard before-- like I said, it cannot be described with mere words.    There are times when she sings in a sort of extra way, where it's not just the words she's singing but just these added notes as if her voice is also an instrument and, honestly, I'm slightly shamed to admit that I've never thought of it like that before: that the human voice can be just as much an instrument as a guitar.   If Tuvaband can show me such things, imagine what they can show you.