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Monday, May 31, 2010

Whoops!

Okay, so it's been a while since I updated, hasn't it? This fatherhood gig gets very busy very quickly. Not that I mind in the least! Okay, I could use a bit more time asleep and maybe a couple of hours a week at the cafe, but besides that, who's complaining? The baby...got to change a diaper...

...okay, we're BACK! The good news is in spite of my lack of blog updates I have been busy working! The Aeons War is progressing; Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind is on track, though I've revised the launch window for Fall 2010. There's a bit more work that needs to be done to get this one ready; I'm working with the original illustrator, Nicole DeCaria on cover art ideas and finishing the eBook compile.

I've been spending a lot of time networking with writers, publishers and other creative types as well, so while I've done as much actual writing as I normally enjoy (though I still squeeze in at least a couple of hours a day!) I'm becoming more involved in the writing community.

Fatherhood isn't a topic I'd expected to blog about; there's far more entertaining and informative blogs on parenthood out there, and I want to keep this site as focused on my writing as possible. However, I must say that these first six weeks with Eva-Madeleine have been among the most frightening, rewarding, overwhelming, enjoyable and unbelievably happy days of my life. While Angel gave birth to Eva, I really do feel as though Eva gave birth to me.

So...that's as maudlin as I'm wont to get on these pages...so, how about a backlog of reprinted music reviews from the pages of CONFRONT Magazine?


Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles II

I myself didn’t know what to make of what I was listening to, the first time played ‘Crystal Castles II’. It was my first introduction to the band and to Canadian Experimental Electronic music in general.

The band has of course garnered critical acclaim and toured extensively since introducing the world to their unique sound. They’ve supportit ed for the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Blur, and have performed festivals, including the Coachella Valley fest, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, among others.

That being said, their sound is a bizarre hodge-podge of 16-bit electronic noise and asynchronous rhythms and sound effects. Alice Glass’ shrill, hi-lo falsetto and the generalized cacophony of noise combines to make a sound unlike anything I’ve heard before. There are times it sounds like utter chaos; at other times, like a broken Super NES videogame soundtrack. And yet the layer of complex sound works as a whole, cohesive unit. But the layers are so distinct one can listen to the same song over and over again and, just by shifting aural focus to a different instrumentation.

Glass’s vocals are often obscured behind the music, or just rendered incomprehensible by various sound effects incorporated into each song. But given the incomprehensibly self-referential lyrics, that’s not a significant loss. Yet the lost vocals too works, adding to the surreal, hallucinatory feel of this album. ‘Crystal Castles II’ is a musical freak-out, a manic, mind-frying collection of 14 unreal tunes. The music here is frenetic, high-energy and as addictive as any trip-inducing controlled substance out there.

This album is a mindjob for any connoisseur of messed-up music.

Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles II
Fiction Records
Steve’s Rating: 9/10


Soulfly: Omen

First, I’d like to tell you about what’s good about ‘Omen’, the seventh studio album from veteran American Metal act, Soulfly. Having been in this business for thirteen years, the band has become technical masters. The instrumentation, vocals and production of this album are flawless.

However…

The fact of the matter is the lyrics here are completely soulless. The promo team for the album boasts of its violence, its intensity, how aggressive it is, how raw, how powerful…unfortunately the violent imagery, themes and lyrical execution are just so uninspired, cliché and disappointingly bland.

They make all the obvious lyrical choices here…Bloodbaths, mayhem, rivers of red, execution, war, violence…Basically every Hard Core Heavy Metal stereotype and cliché imaginable is lumped together in from one song to the next throughout the album. It’s just really disappointing to listen to…with some proper effort put into the lyrics and imagery of the album, ‘Omen’ could have been kick-ass.

Soulfly: Omen
Roadrunner
Steve’s Rating: 5/10


Meat Loaf: Hang Cool Teddy Bear

The eleventh studio album from the bombastic and over-the-top Rock personality Meat Loaf is chock full of his signature, balladeering vocals, epic songs and light-hearted self-satire. Meat Loaf is best known for his ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ trilogy; while ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ doesn’t have any songs destined for the same iconic status as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” or “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” or “Monster is Loose”.

But ‘Hang Cool’ is nevertheless a fun, and unmistakably quintessential Meat Loaf album, expressing itself well on songs like “Los Angeloser” or “Did You Ever Love Somebody” or “Elvis in Vegas” crafting story-songs of poignancy, power and outright entertainment.

Of course, like his namesake dish, Meat Loaf is an acquired taste, and the sometimes sublimely ridiculous spectacle that is his music might not strike the right chord with everyone. Nevertheless, this is a good album from a legendary musician.

Meat Loaf: Hang Cool Teddy Bear
Loud & Proud
Steve’s Rating: 8/10


Colorsound: A New Feeling (EP)

Normally I don’t do EP reviews; I hate the format, even when it’s an EP from an established artist that I like. However, sometimes an EP is just meant to be reviewed. Sluggish email tubes and dodgy Canadian Postal Service meant that I literally only found out about Colorsound’s intro, ‘A New Feeling’ a few days ago. After an email exchange with the band’s manager I finally got access to the tracks. Given the effort made to get this one to me, I owed it to everyone involved to listen to it. I liked it enough to review it, as well!

Regular readers know that I’ve often said Montreal produces some of the best music nobody listens to; this city is brimming with unknown, underrated and simply awesome bands. Up and coming Electro Pop act Colorsound is no exception to this rule.

While I am ambiguous to Electro-Pop as a genre, I can appreciate it when it is done as well as it is here. Colorsound’s instrumentation is well layered and capably produced. The lyrics are appropriately romantic, somewhat innocuous and radio-friendly; vocally they fall somewhere between Simple Plan and Metro Station; It’s a little candy-corn but you know what? That’s all right too every now and again.

Coming in at 5 songs ‘A New Feeling’ is a little hard to use as a barometer for the band; this sounds like 4 top 40 singles and one “serious album” song; good music but a sampler. I’d like to hear more if only to get a better reading. As they’re working on material for a debut full-length it’ll be interesting to hear where they go. They could do some great New-New-Wave or Factory Glam sounding stuff and really surprise me, or even just produce more of the same Electro Pop and I’d be okay with it. From what I’ve heard they’re good at what they do. Time will tell if good can be great.

Colorsound: A New Feeling (EP)
Independent
Steve’s Rating 8/10


Wintersleep: The New Inheritors

Classic Canadian Rock at its best. There’s just no other way to describe Wintersleep as a band. Following the success of ‘Welcome To The Night Sky’, ‘New Inheritors’ is a capable entry; subdued vocals, Bluesy, bleak and trippy guitar work and a languid, mellow vibe infuse the album. Clever, contemplative lyrics rife with brilliant and unconventional imagery flesh out this album’s soul.

The album opens with “Experience the Jewel”, a song evocative of the greats of Canada’s Rock pantheon, and then alternates between subdued Rock intensity and mellow, Blues-driven ethereal Rock tunes.

Have they topped album #3 or have they plateaued? It’s too soon to tell; on the strength of this album, however, I can say that Wintersleep are certainly at their best.

Wintersleep: The New Inheritors
Sonic
Steve’s Rating: 9/10

Frankie Mayfield and the Soundbox: Self-Titled

This one is awful. Sorry, no other way to put it or preface the sentiment. While the musical arrangement and production on this one are capable, the lyrics and especially the vocals are not.

The songs run the gamut of tired cliché; all of them badly sung in a whiny, nasal voice that left me wondering if this was all brilliant comedy or some sort of genius performance art. It is neither. Imagine Adam Sandler from back in the day, doing a funny, retarded voice and then singing an album’s worth of Indie Rock. Yeah…that’s the awesomeness of Frankie Mayfield and Soundbox…only not as funny, and not on purpose. Really, shockingly bad.

Frankie Mayfield and the Soundbox: Self-Titled
Blacktop
Steve’s Rating: 3/10



The Blue Van: Man Up

Denmark isn’t exactly the first place that springs to mind when one thinks about Blues Rock. But veteran Danish ensemble The Blue Van are putting out some of the most kick-ass sounding modern take on Blues Rock and Southern Redneck Rock-revival that I’ve heard, since My Morning Jacket unleashed ‘Evil Urges’ in 2008.

They’ve been around for just under a decade and they’ve put out 5 albums in that time; ‘Man Up’ is their latest. The sound on this one ranges between the aforementioned Blues-rooted Redneck Rock to Post-Grunge, to manic, treble-charged tunes that sound like they’re unreleased material from the Vines.

My only real criticism of this one is that the title track of the album would have made a much better opener than “Be Home Soon”. However, driving through the rest of the thirteen tracks on ‘Man Up’, including “Silly Boy”, the very Chris Cornell-sounding “Lay Me Down and Die”, and my personal favourite, “I’m A Man”, The Blue Van recovers from this one, forgivable fault.

This is, arguably, one of the best albums of the first half of 2010; if you like the Rock music, you really should check this one out.

The Blue Van: Man Up
20 Buck Spin
Steve’s Rating: 9/10

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