Tuesday, April 26, 2011


One Reality (Equal Vision)
On their second album (and Equal Vision debut), these baby-faced Pennsylvanian post-hardcore warriors—two members only recently graduated high school—offer a muscular blend of precision drumming, brutal riffing and vocals that bridge the gap between laryngitis and throat cancer. For the most part, they color within the lines of their genre, only occasionally busting loose, like with the surprising (because of its awesomeness) guitar break on “Dreamer.” The acoustic-guitar-driven instrumental “May,” which comes just after the 33-minute disc’s midpoint, is another pleasant surprise. In a few cases, their insistence on mostly stripping their music to its thick-necked core (no pun intended) does the songs a disservice; the chorus of “Dying World” really would have benefited from clean backing vocals. It’ll sound great when the crowd sings along at shows, though. And for the most part, One Reality offers excellent pit fuel, with a few meditative moments that demonstrate an admirable depth that will hopefully continue to grow on future releases.

Get it from Amazon for $5.00

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This essay on NPR.org is interesting and worth a read, if you've got a moment. It's about the idea that you should accept the fact that you're never going to read, see, hear or experience everything of value. You're going to go to your grave having missed out on hundreds, thousands, of cultural experiences (books, movies, plays, albums, TV shows, etc., etc.) that others—including people whose opinions you trust—swear are awesome, life-changing, sublime, etc., etc. And that's fine.

I know I've made the conscious choice to skip whole swaths of things, mostly by rejecting the opinions of critics. I make almost no effort to keep up with hip-hop, I only encounter mainstream pop by watching videos on MTV or VH1, and while I visit Pitchfork every morning, I generally only read the one-sentence teasers for their reviews—I don't read more than one or two whole reviews per week, and I almost never actually listen to the albums in question, even when a friend of mine has written the review, so indie music is almost completely closed off to me. I don't read any fiction reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, unless it's in the Crime column or one of their rare science fiction roundups. I don't watch movies that win Oscars or festival prizes. I don't go to the theater, though I wouldn't mind checking out an opera at some point, not because I want to become knowledgeable about opera, but because the format itself seems like it would be interesting to experience, one time. Actually, two times; I'd like to see one European-style opera, and one Chinese opera.

What do you not bother with? What do you read, watch or listen to because you're afraid of missing out, or being left out of some perceived culture-wide conversation?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The last 11 movies I saw via Netflix:

Mesrine: A two-part biopic of France's greatest bank robber and prison-break artist, topping out at about four and a half hours. Vincent Cassel is a terrific lead, sporting a hilarious array of hideous '70s couture, not to mention wigs and various facial hair options. His forays into pseudorevolutionary political blather barely seem to convince him, let alone the people he's shouting at; only his rampaging ego seems truly heartfelt. Highly recommended, but take a break between Parts 1 and 2.

No One Knows About Persian Cats: An Iranian movie about two musicians—a boy and a girl—who want to get out of the country so their indie rock band can play some shows in England and Europe. In their search for passports, visas and permits, we get a tour of the Iranian underground music scene, in the process seeing and hearing about a dozen bands playing various styles from jam-band funk to thrash metal. Every single one of these bands is better than the piddly-ass music being made by our putative protagonists, which makes it very hard to root for them to succeed.

Micmacs: I'll watch anything Jean-Pierre Jeunet directs. This one is a little darker than Amelie, but not by much, and the cast (jam-packed with people who look like cartoon characters, as always) is up for just about anything. If you like his stuff, you'll like this.

Animal Kingdom: An inexplicably praised Australian crime drama. It starts in the middle, if not the final third, of the story of a family of brothers and their eeeeevil mom, and proceeds to go nowhere special. The only surprise the movie sprung was killing the most interesting character early, and once that happened, it was all downhill. The guy we're supposed to be rooting for/identifying with is a personality-free meatball, and the criminals are about as exciting as figures on a surveillance feed.

Morning Glory: Seems like a girly-girl romantic comedy on its face; turns out to be a pretty funny workplace comedy. Harrison Ford seems like someone woke him up before turning the camera on, which is a welcome change of pace.

Tron: Legacy: I never saw the original, and now I never will. What could have been 90 minutes of neon chases and laser explosions turns into two hours of father-son bonding. And no, the soundtrack doesn't save it.

Green Zone: Better than I expected. Matt Damon has become extremely reliable for a certain kind of bullheaded, get-the-job-done character, and that's what he plays here. The actors whose characters are standing in for real people (Greg Kinnear as Paul Ryan, Amy Ryan as Judith Miller) are less offensive than they'd have been in the hands of, say, Oliver Stone and/or Sean Penn, and Brendan Gleeson is excellent in the Brendan Gleeson role. Director Paul Greengrass keeps things moving.

All Good Things: Based on a true story. Ryan Gosling is very impressive (he's starting to become a draw for me) and Kirsten Dunst is tolerable, which she hasn't always been in the past. Twisty in an unpredictable way, unless you know a lot about the real case (which I don't, but I think I saw an episode of one of the Law & Orders that was also based on this story).

Tangled: Yes, the Disney Rapunzel movie. Yes, there are songs. No, they don't suck. I enjoyed this quite a bit, actually. Donna Murphy, the woman who plays the villainess, is so good I was a) surprised they didn't have someone more famous in the role, and b) surprised she's not more famous herself. Worth seeing just for the horse.

Ondine: A Neil Jordan movie about fisherman Colin Farrell rescuing a woman from the sea who he and his young daughter decide to believe is a selkie (seal-turned-human). Naturally, all is not what it seems. Some good gags, especially one at the expense of Sigur Rós.

Countdown to Zero: An okay if ultimately ineffectual documentary about nuclear proliferation.

Movies I have recently seen in theaters:

Source Code: Duncan Jones is gonna be another director whose movies I'll see on faith, I think. This is a creepy sci-fi/horror thriller about military callousness, about which I will say no more. Jake Gyllenhaal was a good choice for the lead, as an actor with greater gravitas would have made the plot totally soul-crushing instead of just depressing.

Hanna: A chilly Euro-thriller with a terrific soundtrack and only a few logical leaps getting in the way of its general headlong awesomeness. The lead girl is terrific, and the action sequences are very well-shot.

The Adjustment Bureau: Another Matt Damon movie. He's good, as is John Slattery, but the words "magic hat" will forever induce gales of derisive laughter in me, and should replace "jumps the shark" as pop-culture shorthand for "this book/comic/movie/TV show goes off the rails in a major way."

Saturday, April 16, 2011


First, from AltPress.com:

Reckless & Relentless (Sumerian)
Reckless & Relentless, the second full-length from U.K. electro-metalcore outfit Asking Alexandria, still features heavy doses of synth on a few tracks, but overall it’s much less rave-driven than their debut, 2009’s Stand Up And Scream. They’re indulging their inner rock ’n’ rollers more this time around; “Closure” may kick off with distorted beats, and a few digital stutters pop up here and there, but the main guitar riff sounds more like Avenged Sevenfold than anything else on Sumerian Records. “The Match” is similarly swaggering, until it becomes almost gabber techno in its final minute. “Someone, Somewhere” is the album’s biggest surprise—a damn catchy song with absolutely no screaming, it could easily find its way onto hard rock radio.

The band haven’t abandoned the downtuned, chugging breakdowns that were so key to their sound, of course; most of Reckless rumbles like a bulldozer in low gear trying to drive up a concrete staircase—when they’re not slowing down for the heartfelt sung parts. The final track, “Morte Et Dabo,” ends with an almost symphonic coda, like they’re auditioning to soundtrack the upcoming Conan movie. Asking Alexandria haven’t radically changed their sound, but there’s enough evolution on Reckless & Relentless to convince any listener that they’re more than metalcore also-rans or one-trick ponies. [Link]

Now, some AMG links:

AGF & Craig Armstrong, Orlando
Artillery, My Blood
Tim Berne, InSOMNIA
Blood Freak, Mindscraper
Buzzov*en, Revelation: Sick Again
Clutch, Blast Tyrant/Basket of Eggs
Despise You/Agoraphobic Nosebleed, And On and On...
Elonkorjuu, Harvest Time
Joe Fiedler Trio, Sacred Chrome Orb [NOT LIVE YET]
GridLink, Orphan
GusGus, Arabian Horse
Power Quest, Blood Alliance
Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Momenti Felici
Klaus Schulze, Big in Japan [NOT LIVE YET]
Sinister, Altered Since Birth 1990-2010
Sonic Liberation Front, Meets Sunny Murray
Winds of Plague, Against the World
Wormrot, Dirge

Monday, April 11, 2011


I'm so disappointed in Bomba Estereo. I really liked their debut album, Blow Up (AMG review) and pre-album singles like "Corinto" and "Huepaje," but their latest single is terrible.

Let's chart their descent.

Here's the video for "Huepaje":

Now here's "Fuego," from Blow Up:

Pretty great, right? A hot mix of cumbia, hip-hop, electronic music and punk rock rawness. Now check out their latest clip, "Ponte Bomb":

The video itself is entertaining enough, if more than a little MIA-damaged, but the song is awful, starting with the fact that it's a bilingual cover of Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam." And I never thought I'd type the words "doesn't do the original justice" in reference to "Pump Up the Jam," of all things, but seriously, this cover is just weak, from the crappy keyboard sound to the lame lyrics. All it's really got going for it are the muppets and people in furry suits.

Monday, April 04, 2011


OK, as I mentioned yesterday, I'm gonna be participating in Nick Southall's week-long "Music Diary Project," and this is the post in which I'm gonna update, day by day, what I listen to all day.

Monday, April 4
8:45 AM: Watching videos on VH1. The first one is by The Secret, I think? Terribly boring. Switch to mun2 - Veze Skante, "Die Famous." Daddy Yankee, "La Despedida." Gloria Trevi, "Me Rio de Ti."
9:00 AM: One of mun2's two shows dedicated to regional Mexican music (banda, norteño, duranguese) begins. I watch for about 15 minutes.
10:00 AM: I'm out walking around for about an hour, running errands. I listen to most of Cryptopsy's Whisper Supremacy (six tracks out of eight) and half of Gorguts' Obscura (six tracks out of 12) on my iPod.
11:30 AM: Olde Growth, s/t. A CD that arrived in the mail. I make it about halfway through.
12:30 PM: Victor Griffin, Late for an Early Grave, while preparing questions for an email interview.
1:15 PM: Calle 13, Entren Los Que Quieren.
2:15 PM: Tried to listen to Brain Dance by Carlo de Rosa's Cross-Fade, but gave up after about 30 seconds. Put on Cavalera Conspiracy's Blunt Force Trauma instead.
5:00 PM: Liturgy, Aesthetica.

Tuesday, April 5
9:00 AM: The work day begins—listening to Asking Alexandria's Reckless and Relentless and reviewing it.
10:00 AM: Out on daily walk. Living Colour, Time's Up (tracks 1-5); Fishbone, Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe (tracks 1-3). Time's Up has not held up well. Corey Glover is a lamely overemotive, totally un-soulful vocalist and a terrible lyricist.
11:00 AM: Tried out Indian's Guiltless (which I'm gonna have to review next week), lasted half of one song. Not in a mood for sludgy doom. Switched to Power Quest's Blood Alliance. Screaming, shredtastic power metal—that's more like it.
12:30 PM: Archie Shepp, Kwanza. By the way, I should mention that everything I'm listening to at home is on my laptop (but through Philips noise-canceling headphones, not the laptop speakers). I don't use the stereo much; I'm not alone in the house, and anything that's gonna be broadcast in that way has to be by mutual decision.
1:30 PM: Winds of Plague, Against the World. Sometime next week, I'm gonna have to review this album. Right now, I'm just listening to it for the hell of it.
2:15 PM: Klaus Schulze, La Vie Electronique 2. A three-CD set totaling nearly four hours of 1970s analog synth ooze.
8:00 PM: Endangered Blood, s/t. A jazz album I'm reviewing for BurningAmbulance.com.

Wednesday, April 6
8:00 AM: Two songs from Saint Vitus's Mournful Cries, while walking down the blog to get breakfast.
8:30 AM: Watching videos on mun2. De la Ghetto's "Jala Gatillo" (see above), a couple of other reggaeton acts. I change the channel when Rihanna's "S&M" comes on; I don't like that song or its video.
10:15 AM: Out for a walk. Black Sabbath, The Dio Years (tracks 1-2); Behemoth, Evangelion (tracks 1-3). Behemoth's music is hard to take—it's relentless, the drumming a constant machine-gun barrage, the guitars and vocals a buzzsaw battling a blast furnace. I'm impressed by what they do, but it's a little too unrelieved for me to listen to on a regular basis.
11:00 AM: TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light. The label emailed me a download link for this. I've never listened to a whole album by these guys; I'm gonna try to make it all the way through this one...Nope. I only lasted to track 8 (there are 13 on this "deluxe edition" download, two of which are remixes). They're good at what they do, but it's not for me. I'd have to give a lot more thought to explaining why than I'm willing to give, but at its base, I just don't see how their music fits into my life. Music is a life soundtrack for me, and I'm never in a mood or a social situation where a TV on the Radio song is gonna be the perfect music for that moment. If it was playing at a party, I would know I was in the wrong house.
1:00 PM: Krallice, Diotima. I'm gonna have to review this next week, but I'm getting a head start on it because I think it's gonna require multiple listens to sink in and make sense. I think it'll also give me a different perspective on the new Liturgy album (both bands are from Brooklyn, both are rooted in black metal but go much further out than that term implies), which I'm gonna listen to, again, next.
3:30 PM: Cactus, 'Ot 'n' Sweaty. Half studio, half live, all awesome.
5:30 PM: Does watching Tron: Legacy count if I mostly watched it to hear the Daft Punk score in action? I'm gonna count it.

Thursday, April 7
Off to a slow start today; didn't really feel like watching music videos as I ate breakfast this morning. So:
10:00 AM: Liturgy, Aesthetica (tracks 1-7).
11:00 AM: JD Allen Trio, Victory! Allen is a Detroit-born, NYC-based tenor saxophonist who records with a sax-bass-drums trio; this is the group's third record. It's very compressed music; the longest of the CD's 12 tracks is 5:04, and most of them are under three minutes long. (The whole thing runs 36:46.) The disc will be out in mid-May, and I can already tell it's gonna make my year-end list for the Village Voice jazz critics' poll.
1:00 PM: Liturgy, Aesthetica (tracks 4-12).
1:40 PM: Ayumi Hamasaki, Duty.

Friday, April 8
8:00 AM: Music videos on VH1 and mun2. Jennifer Hudson's terrible new single, Two Door Cinema Club's "What You Know," Jay Sean w/Lil Wayne guesting, and some other stuff I don't remember.
9:00 AM: John Coltrane, Coltrane (the 1957 album on Prestige, not the Impulse! title from 1962) and Coltrane Jazz.
2:00 PM: The Gates of Slumber, The Wretch. Heavy as a really heavy thing doom metal. Coming out in the US on May 10 or thereabouts, already out in the UK. Here's YouTube footage of one of the new songs:

4:45 PM: Morbid Angel, Covenant.
11:00 PM: Klaus Schulze, Moondawn.

Saturday, April 9
Not going to be a lot of music listening today, as I've got an interview to transcribe.
10:00 AM: Wolf, Legions of Bastards (tracks 1-4). The latest album by a...let's say "classicist" instead of "retro" for a change...Swedish metal band. It sounds a lot like Judas Priest circa 1978-80, so for the return trip (this is what I'm listening to while walking to and from the post office) I switch to the originals: Judas Priest, Stained Class, tracks 1-3. Interesting to hear their '70s work, back when they were still playing riffs that could have come off a pre-MTV ZZ Top album ("White Heat, Red Hot" and "Better By You, Better Than Me" are straight boogie).
11:30 AM: JD Allen Trio, "I Am - I Am," "North Star" and "Pagan," from I Am I Am, which inspires me to listen to John Coltrane's Lush Life, the only album he ever recorded with a trio (supposedly only because the pianist booked for the gig didn't show up).
12:45 PM: Kelis on YouTube: "Brave" and "Scream." Flesh Tone is such an underrated, overlooked album.

Sunday, April 10
Not likely to be much (recorded) music listened to today. I'm going to a movie in the morning (Hanna, the score to which is by the Chemical Brothers, so maybe that counts), but I'm not sure I'm gonna be listening to anything else between lunchtime and when I leave in the evening...to go see Rush at Madison Square Garden.
10:30 AM: Howlin' Wolf, The Chess Box, while driving to and from the movie theater (approx. 20 min. each way).
6:00 PM: JD Allen, I Am I Am (on the train into NYC).
8:00 - 11:00 PM: Rush, live. Full review and photos to come on MSN.com.
11:00 PM: Morbid Angel, Domination.

And that's the week!

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Here are 10 new reviews from All Music Guide:

Ben Allison, Action-Refraction
Los Amigos Invisibles, Not So Commercial
Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising
The Cookers, Cast the First Stone
Graveyard, Hisingen Blues
KEN Mode, Venerable
The Resurrection Sorrow, Hour of the Wolf
Scale the Summit, The Collective
Alex Skolnick Trio, Veritas
Subrosa, No Help for the Mighty Ones


Here's what popped up at BurningAmbulance.com this week:

March 28: a review of Britney Spears' Femme Fatale
March 30: a review of two albums by under-recognized free jazz saxophonist Arthur Jones
April 1: a review of the second album by Dubai-based death metal band Nervecell


Writer Nick Southall is asking people to participate in the "Music Diary Project" from Monday, April 4 through Sunday, April 10. Here's his summary:

The idea is simple. For seven days this April, from Monday the 4th to Sunday the 10th, anyone who wants to take part will keep a diary of everything they listen to, and publish it online somewhere. How detailed that diary is, is up to the individual participants to decide. It may be an annotated list drawn from last.fm scrobbles and chucked up onto a Tumblr; it may take the form of a Tweet or a Facebook status update every time you select a new song on your iPod; or you may keep a detailed spreadsheet of your listening and post it, with notes, on your blog at the end of the week. It’s up to you. If you could tag however you decide to publish your list with “musicdiaryproject” so we can find each other’s entries, that would be awesome.

I’ll be producing an Excel spreadsheet at some point within the next couple of weeks which I’ll make available to download from somewhere, and which you can use to log your listening if you don’t use a scrobbling service or want to concoct your own solution to keeping track. I may also put together some kind of online survey, which I’ll make available for any participants to fill in after the week is done, to gauge how people felt about joining in.

Obviously the act of listing everything you listen to will, by the simple act of doing it, change the way you listen; don’t ignore this fact, but equally, try and keep to as usual a pattern of listening as you would normally have. This experiment isn’t about seeing who listens to the most music or the coolest music or the most diverse selection of music; it’s just about understanding all the different ways we listen to music.

I'll be participating here, or maybe on Twitter; if you're interested, feel free to join in.