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Thursday, April 29, 2010

New...life


Wow...so much for my New Year's Resolution about posting more often, eh?

But, I have a really, really, really, REALLY great excuse for not posting sooner.

Her name is Eva, and she was born last week.

Caring for a newborn and helping my wife out around the house has been one of the most taxing, exhausting, frightening, stressful and difficult jobs I've ever had. And I've never known anything more rewarding, gratifying or enjoyable.

So I've not done much by way of writing lately; I'm not sorry about that. It's picking up again; The Aeon's War is insisting upon some attention while Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind is content to stew and wait it's turn (Coming soon!).

Little teaser: Through Darkness and Stars begins 18 months after the Ship leaves Earth, at the end of The Unearthing. The balance of Aeon's War happens some 1500 years after the events of Darkness, and involves time travel - though not used in any way, shape or form you've probably seen before. At least, I like to think it's an original take...

Anyway, getting back onto the topic of Nevermind, I've been promising the "Music At Work" for that one to you for a while, now. That'll be the next post, I promise!

In the meantime, please enjoy a backlog of music reviews written for CONFRONT Magazine!


MGMT: Congratulations

Back in 2008 I stumbled upon MGMT’s ‘Oracular Spectacular’ just in time to review it. I was blown away by the album, and later that summer I got to interview Andrew and Ben at the Osheaga music festival, here in Montreal. (You can read that interview in full by clicking here: http://www.confrontmagazine.com/web/2008/12/10/mgmt-2/)

Back then, Andrew and Ben confided in me that he was astounded by the almost overnight success the band had with their debut: “…it’s all bizarre to us, and we are always wondering how it happened.” Andrew said, “We’re still a bit confused,” Ben added, “We’re really happy that people like our music but we’ve always thought of ourselves as being very strange people, so to be accepted on a mainstream level like this is music to us.”

That culture shock and confusion became the overriding themes that inspired their work on ‘Congratulations’, their second album, just out this week. As they struggled to come to terms with their newfound fame they used the crafting of the songs that became ‘Congratulations’ as a means of coping.

The result is an album far less carefree than ‘Oracular Spectacular’; there’s a noticeable ennui, a weight on this album’s shoulders, which MGMT attempts to work through across its 9 phenomenal tracks. We sort of saw the beginnings of this gravitas on “Handshake” off of ‘Oracular Spectacular’.

Fortunately, the acid-rock vibe of the last album’s latter tracks is preserved here, tempered with a strong dose of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd influences. The Acid Rock vibe works well here as counterpunch to the lyrical content, and the album falls somewhere between ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in terms of thematic execution.

High points of this album include “Congratulations”, which closes the album and gives an intimate expression of MGMT’s fish-out-of-water malaise with it all; “Brian Eno”, a tribute by MGMT to the Ambient Music icon and his influence on their sound; and “Siberian Breaks”, a 12 minute opus that sums up Ben and Andrew’s feelings through cryptic lyrical allegory.

As a work the sound here has evolved significantly from ‘Oracular Spectacular’, and yet the definitive MGMT sound is reinforced, despite sounding unlike their previous effort. Well worth it for anyone who’s a fan of music that doesn’t conform to the homogenous megalith of commercial music.

MGMT: Congratulations
Columbia
Steve’s Rating: 10/10



Circa Survive: Blue Sky Noise

Circa Survive’s another band that we’ve been eagerly following since the inception of CONFRONT Magazine. The experimental Rock act fronted by Anthony Green of Saosin has matured significantly from ‘On Letting Go’, their 2007 sophomore release, incorporating more sonic effects into the tinny, Treble-charged, mournful music.

The 12 tracks on the basic edition of the album are full of sincere intensity and brilliant lyrical imagery backed by richer, more complex music. Green’s Geddy-Lee sounding vocals add the right note of Emo angst to the albums, particularly on the impassioned “Imaginary Enemy”, as well as on my favourite tracks, “I Felt Free”, “Fever Dreams” and “The Longest Mile”.

There’s nearly a full hour of music on this disc, which in this day and age of 2 minute songs and albums with 39 minute running times is considerable value for your money, especially if you’re into the bittersweet melodies that have made Circa Survive famous.

Of course, another reason I might like this album so much is because I was listening to it when I learned my wife was going into labor, and the album officially dropped on April 20, the day our daughter was born.

Circa Survive: Blue Sky Noise
Atlantic
Steve’s Rating: 10/10



Scott Lanaway: Mergers and Acquisitions

The latest from Toronto-area Electro Folk artist Scott Lanaway is an ethereal delight. I’m reminded of Sting’s solo work with regards to the vocal and lyrical content, with falsetto vocals and an interesting mix of traditional and electronic instrumentation, Lanaway crafts a sophisticated and sensual sound. The music here has a certain bleak beauty to it, a mournful, lonesome romanticism.

The jazzy world-beat sounds, African rhythms and soulful lyrics on songs like “What We Already Knew”, “Gabapentin” and the haunting “Wild Eyes” are gems on an album full of wonderful, musical treasure. This is my first introduction to Scott Lanaway’s music, but it certainly won’t be my last.

If you like folksy, Indie Rock, mellow sounds and poetic lyrics, you really should be listening to ‘Mergers and Acquisitions’.

Scott Lanaway: Mergers and Acquisitions
Aeon
Steve’s Rating: 9/10



Jon And Roy: Homes

So last year I got to listen to ‘Another Noon’, Jon And Roy’s last album, as prep work for an interview with the duo as they came through Montreal. The interview fell through, as these things sometimes do, but I was so enamored of their music I couldn’t help but review it.

So, when I heard through the grapevine that Jon And Roy were coming out with another CD, I jumped on the chance to review it. Jon And Roy are masters of simplicity, crafting eloquent, agreeably cheerful music accompanied simple guitar, bass, drums and occasional harmonica.

From the first notes of “Any Day Now” on, Jon And Roy weave a tapestry of easy elegance. The lyrics of the songs on ‘Homes’ are more sophisticated than their counterparts from ‘Another Noon’. The music is richer, but retains the innocent romanticism and upbeat feel of its predecessor.

Favourites on this Indie Folk Rock compendium include (but are not limited to) “Boon Elm”; “Giddy Up”; the down-tempo instrumental, “Narwhal”; the jazzy “Brooker’s Song” and “Homemade Shirts”.

If you’re a fan of Indie Rock or Folk Rock, you’ll enjoy Jon And Roy’s entire catalogue, but ‘Homes’, their latest, is easily also their best.

Jon And Roy: Homes
Pacific Music
Steve’s Rating: 10/10

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