Are you ready for some Doo-Wop-Core? “Boxing the Moonlight” by Mister Heavenly

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“Upbeat doo-wop-core, is no ceiling, is no floor, you’ll want a beat down.”

Today we have “Boxing the Moonlight” by Mister Heavenly.  You can find everything you need to know about the band here.  To make a long intro short, M.H. includes Honus Honus of Man Man, a member of the Islands (and the Unicorns), and a member of Modest Mouse (and the Shins).  (For the unitiated, be sure you catch Man Man live if and when they hit your town.  I had the lucky fortune of seeing them in New Orleans and they will wear you out and simultaneously leave you wanting more.)

All together Mister Heavenly hits you with 11 tracks of really compelling music with “Boxing the Moonlight.”  Right off the bat, you get “Beat Down,” which I like a lot.  However, that song is not really representative of the M.H. sound on this album.  Don’t get me wrong, the neo-mid-20th-century vibe is cool, but doo-wop-core (or whatever) is just the starting point with this band.

What makes M.H. special is the amount of experimentation within what may seem like straight forward indie-rock music.  For every easy listening groove like “Crazy Love, Vol. III,” you will also get stand out tracks like “Hammer Drop,” “George’s Garden,” and the seemingly out of nowhere noise of “Dead Duck.”   Personally, I really like the sorta-

For every easy listening groove like: “Makin’ Excuses” or “Crazy Love, Vol. III,” you will also get stand out tracks like “Hammer Drop,” “George’s Garden,” and the seemingly-out- of-nowhere noise and distortion in “Dead Duck.”   Personally, if I had to choose a favorite, I really like the album’s closer, the sorta-psychadelic “Out of Time.”  There is a melancholy beauty to it, listen for yourself to see if you agree.

If it wasn’t clear from the first three paragraphs, you should get out and buy this album in ALL the formats.  Also, they are on tour now, don’t miss out if you can help it.  I am going to try and catch them at the Casbah in San Diego next Friday myself.

 

 

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R&R:// Outrage! is Now by Death From Above 1979

TL;DR: Haiku Review:

“when i hear that sound, some high energy thrashing, I’m all out of rage.”

The Band:

For the uninitiated, DFA 1979 is just another great band hailing from Toronto, Canada.  (Canadian musicians are killing it right now.  Forget all of the Canadian jokes you’ve heard, they are our betters.  Get over it.)

Review:

Its not everyday that I get to dive into new music from one of my favorite bands doing it right now.  If you can catch these guys live, you really should.  With that obvious bias out-of-the-way, let’s get to Outrage! is Now.

Aside from the title itself, this album is not overtly political or preachy.  There are discernible themes, but importantly they are addressed subtly in the title track, and”Holy Books” to name a few.  There are hints of a particular (and let’s face it the right point of view) in “All I C Is U & Me” with references to undercover racists in the streets and other terrible things.  This is 2017 after all.

The first single “Freeze Me” has made the rounds on mainstream radio and you have probably heard it already.  It is catchy, but don’t let that one song define the album for you.  Most of the rest of the tracks are standouts in their own right.

DFA 1979 starts out with some hi-hat and a rhythmic bass riff on “Nomad.”  If a lot of post-punk bands use angular or staccato riffs to get crowds moving, DFA 1979 gives you pounding drums and da-da-da-dadada style looping bass lines.  It sounds simple, but the noise created is compelling and powerful.  “Caught Up” starts out slowly but eventually reaches a crescendo that is full of noise and fury, and it is another highlight

The title track’s chorus hits you hard and might be my favorite song on this album.  “Statutes” comes at you with distorted vocals and the familiar looping bass riffs with a much more experimental sound quality.  I also like the last track “Holy Books” because at times you can re-imagine it as a punk-rock anthem and then all of a sudden it drops into a short piano-aided bridge that sounds like it came straight out of Ok Computer.

I come around, when I hear that sound:

Yes, you should definitely stream/buy/borrow this album if you are into DFA 1979 or just good music in general.

 

 

Indie Review: “Mechanics of Life” by Plastic Barricades

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“90’s influenced, but really in a good way, go out and get it”

The Band:

Today we have a review of the new album “Mechanics of Life” from the Plastic Barricades hailing from Europe (London via Estonia).  On their website, PB describes themselves as:

Romantic and honest, gloomy and curious, melodic and melancholic … Plastic Barricades chronicle life in the troubled yet fascinating XXI century with painstaking sincerity, asking questions and trying to find the answers.

 

Plastic Barricades
Pictured being romantic, honest, gloomy, curious, and melancholic (probably)

 

Well, I don’t know the band like all that, so I will just stick with what I know from listening through their new album that was released this week.

The Review:

At first blush, PB sounds familiar, but not consistently familiar.  What I mean is: you can hear  influences of different bands in different songs but it does not come off as trite or tired.  There will always be room in this world for more indie-rock and/or power-pop and PB mixes things up across the 11-track LP to keep the listener engaged.

The band specifically points to: “Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, Muse, Razorlight, Nirvana…” amongst other bands, as their list of influences.  To me, I don’t really hear much Nirvana, but I do hear hints of Phoenix and other danceable indie bands in tracks like “How Goldfish Grow.”

In other tracks, PB sounds like they would be at home in the late 90’s/early 2000’s indie-rock or emo scenes (see “Singularity 2045,” “Be the Change,” or “Needles in Haystacks”).  Still other times, I hear  mid-career Red Hot Chili Peppers (when they de-emphasized the funk), Blur, Bends-era Radiohead and maybe Oasis.

One of the standout tracks for me was “Our Favourite Delusions” because in my opinion it best captures the Plastic Barricade’s sound and gives subtle shout outs to their neo-90’s style.  (Also: honestly, I’m glad they don’t really sound like Coldplay because too many bands have tried to do that and it usually sounds inoffensive and bland.)

Outside of the obvious British comparisons because the vocalist sings with a U.K. accent, PB sounds more like a North American band like Fountains of Wayne (but not corny).   The tracks on “Mechanics of Life” themselves are well constructed and don’t sound overly produced.  “This album works for me because, the band ties their varied influences together to create a sound of their own.

Also, despite the band’s self-description on their website, PB doesn’t try to be too earnest or sincere.  The lyrics are also hazy enough to let the listener decide (which is what good art is supposed to do right?).  Overall, Plastic Barricades is a good listen if you are into power-pop or indie-rock or whatever other label you want to stick on them.

Would I Recommend this album?

I would definitely recommend downloading, streaming, or buying “Mechanics of Life.”  You can stream the new album: here.

Music video here.

P.S.

I only saw U.K. tour dates on their website, but I would be down to see these guys when they come stateside.

 

JAY-Z Goes Kanye

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“Hova airs issues, introspective at Kanye, that’d be so Kanye”

It isn’t worth going deep on what everybody has already said about Jay-Z’s new album: it’s personal, it’s arresting, and a revelation.  It’s not that I would disagree with those assessments.  Jay-Z, like many hip-hop artists of a certain vintage, have struggled with being honest and genuinely introspective.

Yes, Jay-Z already released introspective tracks with personal lyrics.  (See: the Blueprint I for a few examples).  Those tracks, while they cannot be discounted, were often undercut by the very next song.  That has been a consistent crticisim of mainstream hip-hop artists.

However, 4:44 is (ironically) more about Yeezy than Jay-Z.  If we are being honest, Jay’s later-career albums have been more about protecting a legacy, how great it is to be him specifically, being rich, and would these lesser rappers stop taking shots at the King.  This approach worked for radio play and for generating singles about how great Jay-Z is.

It took a true iconoclast like Kanye West to pull mainstream hip-hop out of the well-worn tropes that have characterized (and plagued) the genre (again focusing on the mainstream only) since the late 1990’s.  You know the tropes: (1) I’m rich, (2) I’m real (haven’t forgotten where I’ve come from), (3) I’m great (WAY better than the rappers that I passively aggressively reference), (4) “M.O.B.” etc.  And who else, besides Jay-Z, is a bigger symbol of mainstream hip-hop post 1997?

4:44 is leaner and  devoid of hooks or gimics.  I believe Jay’s relationship with Kanye has slowly changed his music for the better because it pushed him creatively.  (You can hear the beginnings of this with “Watch the Throne.” Jay-Z was outshined by Kanye, hands down, even if he did creep outside of his MC comfort zone more.) This slow evolution brings us to 2017 where Jay-Z is comfortable enough to move beyond his need to assure everyone that Jay-Z was beyond reproach.

Jay-Z may or may not admit it, but “4:44” probably wouldn’t be but for his relationship with Kanye.  Sure, they obviously have experienced a personal fall out.  Sure, a lot of that fall out can probably be attributed to Yeezy’s tortured genius.  Nevertheless, could anyone see “Kill Jay-Z” coming without Kanye?  Forget about the creative dissing of other rappers and Eric Benet, its Jay-Z’s metaphorical self-immolation on 4:44 that stands out.  Now, magazines and the internet are praising Jay for being real, for being honest, for being raw, for being self-aware.  If those writers were being honest, they are praising Jay for putting out a Kanye record.

What would I recommend?  I would defintely buy and/or stream this album.  Unlike some of Jay-Z’s more recent solo work, this album will stick to your ribs.

 

Via Bandcamp: the Menzingers “After the Party”

TL;DR Haiku:

“New Jersey emo, they don’t sound like Bruce Springsteen, a solid album”

Look what has come around again:

The Menzingers just released a new album and it will probably sound somewhat familiar to you, not that there is anything wrong with that.  The Menzingers give me an aural-recall to early-Aughts emo bands like Further Seems Forever (with the original line-up) and countless others from the late 90’s through 2000-something.

Personally, in the choruses especially, I also hear some early Jimmy Eat World.  I don’t get the Bruce Springsteen comps that I have seen thrown around, but I imagine that comp is pushed on every band from New Jersey at least once.ersonally, in the choruses especially, I also hear some early Jimmy Eat World.  I don’t get the Bruce Springsteen comps that I have seen thrown around, but I imagine that comp is pushed on every band from New Jersey at least once.

While the Menzingers don’t do anything to change your life, most bands don’t either, so don’t be such a music-snob for once, Straw Man.  The songs on this album are upbeat (at least musically), well produced, and catchy.  I dare you not to like these songs almost immediately.  It’s a well put together album and I can see why this band is getting some recent buzz with this release.   I’ll be interested to see what kind of staying power they have in my personal rotation after several listens.

For $8 for a digital copy of “After the Party” on Bandcamp:https://themenzingers.bandcamp.com/album/after-the-party, I’d say do it.

https://themenzingers.bandcamp.com/album/after-the-party, I’d say do it.

 

 

 

Focus Grouping with AFI

TL;DR Summary Haiku:

“AFI album, it’s boring and uninspired, I would not buy it”

The first review up is AFI’s “Blood Album” which is great because I am nothing if not an AFI apologist.  And let me say, they have made it almost impossible to defend this album with my usual: “it’s just different” refrain.  I don’t like to be negative and I would rather be constructive…but, it is really hard with this album.  I don’t expect bands to stay the same forever and I don’t mind when they change their sound.  This is different.

This album feels like AFI’s record label put a cross-section of their fans in a room with a one-way mirror and asked them to describe what they would want in a new AFI album.  This album sounds like a band that is trying to check off every box to please the different “generations” of fans but accomplishes nothing because they put every piece of fruit they have into the blender and produced a tasteless mess.

You hear classic AFI in some tracks with the chanting, the choruses, and the background vocals.  The difference here is that it sounds like a cover band without the intensity, without the fire inside (see what I did there?).  You also hear some pop, synth-pop,  pop-punk and, whatever other genres you can throw at me.  And, whatever, I’m fine with that in theory.  They don’t have to remake Black Sails just to be great again.

Honestly, there is probably a good EP in here somewhere because the music is not as bad as the execution.  The problem for me is, the tracks aren’t universally bad, they are just boring.  Oh, and it is time to talk about the Davey Havok in the room.

It’s not the music, it’s the songs.  I don’t usually get caught up in what the lyrics mean but it is another thing to be constantly distracted by bad poetry.  How many times can you repeat “strange” or “stranger” in a song without annoying the listener?  How many times can you sing “white offerings” before it gets old?  How can a band mature in reverse with the content?  Davey annoys with aplomb on this album, and this is coming from an avid AFI fan.  (I still have my limited edition turn of the century AFI vans).

So would I buy this album? Stream it? Avoid it at all costs?  Check them out on tour first?

I would stream it a few times more.  Maybe it will grow on me (says the apologist).