Friday, 30 December 2011

Music In General: Sound of 2012 (Upcoming albums)

First up we have the Leamington Spa Indie/Electro quartet, known as 'Post War Years'. They released their debut album in 2009 entitled 'The Greats and The Happenings'. Since then they've pretty much been a supporting act for fellow Indie/Electro bands like Does It Offend You Yeah? and Everything Everything. They released a single in November called 'All Eyes' which showcases the deeper, electronic sound reminiscent of The Naked & Famous, among others. That single can be heard here. The release date for this upcoming album has not been confirmed as of yet.

Next up is  'The Big Pink'. Many of you will already know, or should know who The Big Pink are. They released an astonishing debut in 2009 called 'A Brief History of Love', which combines sweet, heartfelt lyrics with hard hitting beats and Shoegaze-esque sounds. The pre-release singles are both melodic and feature a more refined sound. You can hear 'Hit The Ground (Superman)' here. Another track entitled 'Stay Gold' is located here... Apparently Lady Gaga added this song to her 'list', but I don't know what that means. The album is due out in January, so prepare for a brighter, smooth album. Although it wont be as strong, I think it will be well received.

This could go either way in my opinion. The new 'Sleigh Bells' album. It will no doubt cause a stir within the hipster neighbourhoods on the Internet that's for sure. They've released one track called 'Born To Lose', which you can listen to here. They have the same gritty sound, but I think they're adding a serious touch to the music this time around. I reviewed the debut album 'Treats' poorly because it was a poor album. I'm just hoping they've taken the time they need to create something other than pointless noise. Something loud and melodic but at the same time lyrical, could make for quite a decent 2012 album.

'School of Seven Bells' return this year with their third studio album. I've seen the duo live, I have both albums and rate them highly. The album is duo out in late February, so I have plenty of time to catch up on those two Electronic friendly albums. They're heading for a bigger, brighter future with this album. Lot's of guitar layers and a ton of reverb. Check out this tune

Earlier this year, I saw 'Spiritualized' perform a number of tracks from their upcoming album entitled 'Sweet Heart Sweet Light', which will be out in March. These songs were much more melodic than 2008's 'Songs In A&E', and featured several references to Christianity, a recurring theme in Jason Pierces lyrics. Check this out... It's an album which will make my 'Top love making albums'. They also have a lovely song called 'Mary', which will please my Mary.

'The Magnetic Fields' return once again with their 11th studio album. It will be released on Merge Records. The band return after a 13 year gap from Merge, since 69 love Songs was released in 1999. Expect exciting new material and fun, Indie Pop songs with more synthesizers. I for one cannot wait for this release, it's due out in March. I couldn't find an upcoming song, so have this badger instead.

Another band I saw live this year, 'The Twilight Sad', release their third album. I'm very excited for this release actually, the songs I've heard have all been very good so far. The album is called 'No One Can Ever Know' and it will be released in early February. In the meantime check out this Amnesiac/HTTT period Radiohead influenced track called 'Sick'.. or the final song on the album 'Kill It In The Morning'.

2012 looks to be a good year at this view point. We have 'Cloud Nothings' releasing their new album, 'The Shins' are back, so are 'The XX', 'Yeasayer', 'The Walkmen' and 'Dirty Projectors'. It remains to be seen if we will hear any new Avalanches material, that's the same view with Animal Collective. I'm still waiting for Sigur Ros to announce their new album, I'm sure that will drop late in 2012. So we have a decent list of upcoming albums here, all of which I'll be checking out over those first three months, you should too.

Can - Tago Mago

Forty years ago, Can - a five-piece experimental avant-garde collective from Cologne, West Germany - unleashed upon the World their ground-breaking, and in places, ground-unifying third studio album, 'Tago Mago'. Citing influences from previous jazz recordings and the earliest forms of avant-garde electronics, it became one of the most well-received and influential recordings in the western World. Bands ranging from the Sex Pistols, Talk Talk, Primal Scream, The Fall...even Radiohead, have cited the album as an influence itself on their own work. Quite fitting then that this album receives its 40th anniversary remastering ahead of a planned remastering of their early catalogue in 2012 - a catalogue featuring the early experimentation's of 'Monster Movie' and 'Future Days' as well as the ground-breaking avant-garde fluxes that are 'Ege Bamyasi' and this, arguably Can's most important and influential album of them all.

From the word go, it's clear that 'Tago Mago' was destined for great heights as 'Paperhouse' opens the album, smoothly swung guitar hooks and pattered drums accompany vocalist Damo Suzuki's soft, delicate murmurs. Can's improvisational speciality soon takes over, the rhythmic swings getting more paced, more energetic; drums pattering between organic and synthetic output while still holding tight grip amidst the song's cleverly balanced mixture of riffs, beats and Suzuki's continuing swarve lyricism. Once more the track in continuing development and change, the final section a lot more mellow in its output but still maintaining the band's sense of jazz-like flow - as stated, a key influence on the album's recording.

A perfectly timed transition into 'Mushroom' finds Suzuki leading the mix this time - a familiar blurb of vocals drifting atop a march of drum patterns and strum of guitars. This time however, the transition into the song's next phases is a lot more dramatic and, through result, impactive on the ear. Suzuki, once murmuring unbeknownst lyrics soon batters clear-cut lyrics through his psyched and charged voice and tone, before returning once more to the gentle naturism of his former output. It's a song that cleverly flickers between moments of hushed clarity and eager intensity - once more, the cleverly mixed pattern of guitar, drums and vocals - each swinging to and fro amid the soundscape - providing us a song perfectly crafted in avant-garde brilliance.

'Oh Yeah', more direct and to-the-point than its previous counterparts, does not lose any of the album's already built momentum. Drums quickly charging forth, Suzuki's backward-played vocals leading a high octane rush of guitar and drum beats. Vocals, returning to their former clarity - riffs filling in the empty gaps with perfectly tuned crunches of clashing - once done leave only a fine stretch of cymbal-fuzed drum clashes and electric-heavy riffs that make the listener's ears swing to either side of the mix board.

Later tracks 'Halleluwah' and 'Aumgn' continue this experimental nature of instrumental swing, Suzuki's lyrics almost monotonous in their approach on the former track, only for his voice to boom out at uncalled opportunities leaving only a stunned audience reeling in the bass-heavy beat of drummer Jaki Liebezeit's cleverly timed knocks and hammers of percussion. But it's the high-picked guitars that truly make this track stand out. Both [Holger[ Czukay and [Michael] Karoli - bassists and lead guitarist respectively - are left battling almost for dominion in the empty space seemingly left by Suzuki's voice (or a lack thereof) in the latter parts of 'Halleluwah' that reel the listener in on a sonic journey of hard-hitting notes and cleverly drifting chords.

'Aumgn' then introduces the listener to Can's more experimentally abstract approach to soundscaping. Reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream records, finely treated guitar plucks - drenched in a sea of flanger, distortion and echoing - are followed by drops of sudden piano keys and volatile violin strings, all amidst the hush of Suzuki's humming and effect-laiden voice. The track becomes a lot more percussion-heavy in the latter half, while still maintaining its abstract naturism. Once more, Liebezeit's prolific use of drum beats and percussion arragement invites the listener into a World teetering on the edge of implosion. It's a tension that's all too exciting and brings about a cleverly revealed more darker naturism about this record.

Naturism of this darker and more excited kind is revealed further on 'Peking O', quite possibly the most intriguing and out-spoken of all of Tago Mago's compositions - both structural and improvisational alike. This time, it's a synthesized drumbeat that provides the percussion backing, plucked guitar strings and wobbling piano keys provide a somewhat tense atmosphere to Suzuki's blurred lyrics. Before long, the synthesizer beat takes full control; faster, heavier now. It's tension is heightened further as Suzuki's enters into his most abstract and most jibberish form of vocal output, voice booming across the on-off playing of synthetic drums and teetering icy piano keys. Before long, the song goes full-circle, binding once more into its compositional form, hypnotic in its approach, dizzying the listener as a result. It's a dizzyness snapped back to normality soon after by the noise-drenched closing of guitar chords and heavy drums in the song's final stages.

Closer 'Bring Me Coffee Or Tea' ends on an optimistically mellower note, strings more widening and expansive than their previous outings, the occasional pluck or two drifting through the fog-like haze built up in the early stages. It's an expanse that drifts across all modes of musical emotion, clashes of percussion leaving pacier strings dwindling between an internal and external struggle - pace never losing momentum as the album finally closes on a exciting build of solid instrumentation.

Through this, 'Tago Mago' provides one of the most exciting and far-flung adventures into soundscaping that has ever been produced. Its ingenious discovery into the development of structural experimentation and instrumental overlay proves more than others that there is more to music than just traditional timing and heavy-built vocal structures. Forty years on, it remains as fresh and as energetic as it's first ever shun into audience's eyes. But more importantly, it's an album that very few have managed to equal, let alone top.


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Kyuss - Welcome To Sky Valley

Released in 1994, over a year after it was completed, "Welcome to Sky Valley" is a landmark of the Stoner Rock genre. The first Kyuss record on a major label (Elektra), WtSV is the first album to feature Scott Reeder (Across the River, The Obsessed) and the last with Brant Bjork. This album is a journey, and always conjures up images of the desert when I listen, It's the best album for driving down those boring Highways.
Musician wise everyone is top notch, even though they aren't perfect, the fact that the musicians aren't the best in the world makes what the play that much more powerful. Bjork's drumming always manages too keep everything glued together, while still sounding interesting. Reeder on bass is incredible, he not only compliments guitarist Josh Homme's playing, but he adds his own little bits here and there. The guitar is incredible, Homme's tone is very heavy and fuzzy. Together they are all very tight, it sounds like everyone is doing their own thing, yet it always comes together. 

The album is split into three "suites" this was done as a joke to the record label, as they had asked for three singles from the album. The first suite is my favorite; Gardenia, the album opener has this really killer opening riff, nothing but Homme's fuzzed out guitar. It really lets you know that you're in for a fun ride. Asteroid is an all instrumental track, and serves as a bit of a bridge between Gardenia and Supa Scoopa and the Mighty Scoop. Supa Scoopa is a very riff oriented track, it starts off very soft but once it starts going it goes hard, with pounding riffs, and vocalist John Garcias powerful voice. At around the 3:00 mark on this track it just turns into an all-out jam, with everything sounding very improvised and organic.

Suite 2 is very soft in comparison to Suite 1, while Suite 1 sounds aggressive and heavy, Suite 2 sounds relaxed and chill in comparison. 100 Degrees is the most aggressive track on the album, with very nice lyrics about how trying to escape something you can't escape from; 100 degrees is a nice metaphor for the desert in general. Space Cadet sounds the most mellow on the album, there is zero fuzz on this track. Reeder and Homme both have very intricate playing on this track, a fary cry from the riff driven tracks that fill the album with. Demon Cleaner, the final track on the suite is amazing, everyone is doing their own thing, but it all comes together in this very cool song. This song makes me want to wave my arms in the sky, close my eyes, and let Kyuss awesome music take me away. 

Suite 3 is very fast paced, it sounds more Motorhead than Black Sabbath, but it's very fun. Odyssey is really psychedelic and heavy, it has this neat little soft intro then just goes straight into this fast paced heavy riff. It's awesome. Conan Troutman sounds like a High on Fire song, very Motorhead- that is it is fast, simple, and fun. N.O. is actually a cover from the band Across the River, which Scott Reeder was in. Also in Across the River was Mario Lalli(also of Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson fame), who plays guitar on the track. I love the opening vocals ILL WAKE UP TOMORROW, TODAY! screams Garcia over intense music. Fucking awesome. Whitewater serves as the album closer, a song about missing your home. Garcia's vocals are very well done here, and the jam at the end is the best jam on the record. the album ends with an extremely cheesy hidden track called lick doo. 

Welcome to Sky Valley is the penultimate Stoner Rock album. Everything on it is well done. The way it changes and tricks you and goes up and down. You never know what to expect as you listen. In a time when Grunge and Alternative (metal) were dominating the rock charts, Kyuss released this out of nowhere, it truly sounds like no other record before it. Kyuss Lives!


A Troop Of Echoes - Days In Automation

without relying on idioms or over excessive descriptions, A Troop Of Echoes are quite simply a Jazz-Rock quartet. When labelling artists it's important not to offend the artist by generalization and disastrous genre specifics. I'm trying my best not to be wrong here, this is Post-Rock. It's Post-Rock with a Free Jazz edge. Something quite extraordinary and unusual is created here. You have all the progressions and key instruments for a simplistic Rock group, but A Troop Of Echoes throw all sense of normality out the window with excessive soundscapes and beautiful track developments. Don't get me wrong, I love my Mono, my Mogwai, GY!BE, Slint and Bark Psychosis as much as the next man. A Troop Of Echoes give something different. When you strip back the reverb and dominant left sided Saxophone, Rock N' Roll breaks loose.

There's an underlined hint of beauty here. The opener, 'Hollywood Red', begins with synthesizers and a neat bass riff, progressing with with small guitar twinges and a style of drumming characteristic with Math Rock. Referring back to my genre ploy above, A Troop Of Echoes do have Math Rock structures. They're in that boat with Battles, where they can both be classified as Post-Rock and Math Rock, however they each have their own specific style. Battles being a 'loop' band with samplers, A Troop Of Echoes being a Free Jazz band. 

We hear the same grilling sound on the second track 'Golden Gears'. It has this extremely catchy guitar riff which can be heard during the centre segment of the track, where the guitar and bass follow the riff, with Saxophone leading into the fray. The drumming is hard hitting with a key focus on that small four second riff. You can hear some of the louder rhythmic segues taking place towards the end of the track, a sign of good things to come. It's exactly that with the thumping drum and distorted guitars on 'Providence Public Defender'. With a changed drum pattern one minute in, the musically trained band add dynamics and leave the 4/4 time signature lost in space. They play to their strengths by adding a little breakdown near the end, stripping back the distortion, eclipsing with a wall of noise and synthetic harmony, much like Mogwai.

The melancholy 'Sungazing' is reminiscent of the early 90's movement of artists such as Red House Painters and Low, also known as slowcore. This track has a definite structure compared to the previous few. It has a nice, slow introduction, with faster guitar rhythms and stronger bass leading towards the jazzy middle section. It ends with layered saxophone and the same (faster) guitar riff used to start the track.

'Little Bird' features a characteristic organ and jazz interlude. it sounds nice on the ear and reminds me of several Nintendo video games for some reason, happy times. The bass riff is consistent for the introduction before speeding up towards the climax. This track has been split in half. The first half features the saxophone taking lead without any guitar backing. The second combines brighter bass work with the reverbed guitar and ever present saxophone.

The noisy 'Analog Astronaught', brings comparisons to fellow Rhode Island band Lightning Bolt. The distorted guitar riff holds steady, whilst the instrumentation around it plays different time signatures. The guitar riff then builds up with the drums, for a small Jazz solo, then incomes the Foals-esque breakdown. It sounds remarkable with the very friendly bass and saxophone whining around on the dominant left side. It's very warming, A Troop Of Echoes are like a softer Maybeshweill without the vocal samples. 

The saxophone riff on 'End Over End', is a sign of good things to come for the band. It depends on what direction they see themselves taking, but short riff's like this could be looped and layered, stretched.. effected and just about any other studio technique to give it a compact sound. They however, seem to go for the stretched out, original, Post-Rock song structures. The eight minute long  'New Breath', highlights the bands musical ability. Three of the members studied music at the University of Rhode Island, clearly learning and putting to practise music theory in their music. It's a great enigmatic piece with several segments alike Godspeed You Black Emperor! 

As closers go, 'Ascenders' puts the Moog on the mood. With it's synthesized intro and electronic based soundscapes, it allows the alto sax to melodically form a unitary sound with the synthesizer and sparse light percussion. Secondary saxophone is heard with reverberated drumming, creating a Sigur Ros-esque sound. The bass takes focus towards the end of the track, with the cinematic drumming creating a vivid, textual atmosphere only Post-Rock bands can encounter.

I think it will be a bright future for A Troop Of Echoes. With a strong debut album under their belt, several important contacts in the music industry, A Troop Of Echoes can look forward to an eventful foray of future release and splendid write ups. They have supported such acts as Fang Island and Warpaint,  both bands were brought to light in 2010 with their debut albums. Some could say A Troop Of Echoes are halted and flawed by the lack of vocals, my opinion differs. Instrumental rock shines with cohesive song structures and that's exactly what A Troop Of Echoes are, instrumental rock. 

Pop Corner: Nicola Roberts - Cinderella's Eyes

So, I don't know what they do up in England, but I guess their answer to the U.S.'s Pussycat Dolls is Girls Aloud (or maybe vice versa. Anyway,) One of the group's former members Nicola Roberts premiered her debut solo album Cinderella's Eyes around autumn of 2011. By mainstream pop standards, the album and its singles flopped, which is a real shame. Because it's probably one of the best of the genre this year.

The opener "Beat of My Drum" starts with "Once upon a time..." (Just like a fairy tale! How appropriate!) as she goes into some autobiographical account of her career like  she "had no beat" but was "learning quick." And then became awesome ("See how strong you made me now"), chanting "L O V E," (not as hard to spell as "bananas," but just as catchy) and telling us to dance, which is perfectly fine with me, because this song is pretty fun. The beat, made by the Diplo, pounds like crazy with a drumline and glitchy vocal samples. Roberts' voice sounds crazy processed in the verses, but as the chorus rolls in it's nearly negligible and it's hard to not dance to the beat of her drum. The next song is "Lucky Day" and it's produced by Dragonette and has that same polish and quality of their usual work, so it's just as delightfully infectious as the opener. Things kind of slow down with "Yo-Yo," but not in a bad way. Turns out Roberts co-wrote all the original songs and I'm pretty impressed; she knows how to make some good hooks. This momentum carries on through the pulsing title track and thumping "Porcelain Heart," which features the album's strongest vocal display toward the end.

So then there's "i," with its Middle Eastern-influenced introduction and laundry list of things Nicola fears, hates, and hopes for, both personally and socially. It's fairly reminiscent of Lily Allen's vague commentary on It's Not Me, It's You--and about as uncertain as how to solve the problems she brings up. The cover of The Korgis' "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime," feels a bit too safe yet overproduced. However, in context of the album, it fits well enough. "Say It Out Loud" follows, and is a call to attention to whoever is insecure and faking and junk to let it all out. Nice role model, this Nicola Roberts. "Fish Out of Water" lives up to its name as being one of the strangest songs on Cinderella's Eyes. Its introduction is enough to catch you off guard, but it's interesting for sure and is quite a grower. Roberts expressed she wanted to work with Kate Bush on the album, and it's clear this song is her (slightly flawed) attempt at capturing her idol's style.

"sticks + stones" is the lullaby-esque closer to the album. Where she talks about being bullied and crying alone, taken from her experience from being in the public eye at the age of 17 and faced with harsh criticism she hadn't anticipated ("Too young to buy my own bottle of vodka...yet you thought I'd cope with being told I was ugly"). But talks herself (and the listener) up by saying "Don't surrender, don't you change" and assures she's strong enough to take whatever negative criticism she gets ("Your bullets, I don't feel them, come and fire at me"). Of all the pop songs we've heard in the past few years about being a fuckin' perfect firework who was born this way, "sticks + stones" feels like the most sincere out of all of them.

And despite all the setbacks chronicled on Cinderella's Eyes, it never feels like a whinefest: every time she's knocked down, Roberts comes back up and dares you to take another shot at her persistent self-esteem. In tracks like "Take a Bite" and "Gladiator" she snaps back; the latter having some of the fiercest verses of the album. The attitude alone is the perhaps the most refreshing thing about Cinderella's Eyes: she shows her vulnerability without exploiting it as seeming victimized while rocking a pugnacious playfulness against her detractors and not coming off as a self-righteous bitch. And most of all, I'm gonna have to give her props because she didn't make a song called "Swagger Jagger."


Clark - Turning Dragon

If there's one music genre - or at least, one coined term - that leaves both listener and artist alike reeling in disgust at its very mention, it's IDM. Intelligent Dance Music: the potentially pretentious and elitist view that any music that (un)fortunately finds itself fall under this name is both complexly arranged and requires an advanced level of both knowledge and wisdom. No one likes to use it, yet in every music directory or music sharing site out there, the term remains stuck...unwilling to move from both our eyes and our mind. It's a genre that has spawned an entire cast of prolific bar-raisers and sound pioneers. Whether it be the hand-clapping, mind-melting compositions of Aphex Twin & Squarepusher or the melodic experimentations of Autechre and µ-Ziq, electronic music has forever found its battlegrounds beyond the claustrophobic murmur of night clubs and DJ sets, but now more than ever, casting endless streams of melody and beat across all walks of life.

It's no surprise then that a lone British musician by the name of [Chris] Clark, finds his developmental persona caught up in this expansive outlaying; electronic music creeping from out of the drum machines and synths built only for the rhythm and timing of a human's hands and feet, now lingering in the darkest and (potentially) most invigorating parts of our mind. It's even less of a surprise that we can look back on the first decade of this (still new) century and find lesser difficulty in picking out this form of electronic music that does indeed expand on a sole being's experimentalism and personal approach to melody.

But Clark - surname now the preferred moniker - is never one for simple self-discovery. True, his first two outings demonstrated a key ear for the "out there" - the World beyond the horizon; music for the mind rather than the body - but it was game-changer Body Riddle that spun Clark onto a new axis of not just discovery of one's self, but expression of other's feelings, the collective response.

Clark's forth selection of self-made "riddles" is more centralist and cogent as a result. Opener 'New Year Storm', though offers a glimpse into that past life of electronic music, faint beats alluring to some late night club of social gathering, is quick to strike a blow to any hints of nostalgic return (as if some form of trickery), hart hitting drum patterns in a menacing marching rhythm stand alongside the twitches of synths and sharp glitchy pops. It's a theme that follows suit and is one, we quickly learn, has very little when it comes to using overlay to soften things up. If anything, following tracks 'Volcan Veins' - quicker in pace, more gibberish in its vocal annotation - and the glitchy almost combustible 'Truncation Horn' suggest that if anything, is using its rough, rusty edges as its very medium to transpire these sounds.

And that is where we realize the truth of this record: this is no imagining of some far-stretched fantasy in audio form, but rather a realization of something that could, potentially, be closer to home than we suspect. It's a no-holding-back fling into the harshness of everything completely agitative. Seven minute highlight 'For Wolves Crew', like some demented 'Bohemian Rhapsody' offspring, unravels - in three equally sprawled movements of synth-driven beats - clashes of rhythm, popping electronics and far-flung synthetic overlays all combining into one mind-melting blurb of sound.

Later tracks 'Ache of the North' - tantalizing flutters and breathless cries - and 'Mercy Sines' - volatile rumbles and siren-like wails - though differentiate on the album's direction, still maintain its menacingly invasive delve. Where the former half of Turning Dragon feels almost contortive and controlling, the follow-on is no doubt expansive and, as if in some unfortunate circumstance, subversive and influential. 'Hot May Slides', in some bizarre duality of fantasy and nightmare, wavers in a hypnotic horn-like bellow behind a rusty sand-like shuffling of drums.

A perfect way then to lead your listener/victim in to the penultimate outcry of roaring synths and adrenaline-fuelled beats that is 'BEG'. From the word go, the ferocity of its nature (and indeed, that of the whole album) brings about the most clarity of all Dragon's sound. It feels like some foreseen tragedy, a power unable to maintain its form - glitches of its beaming patterns as if ready to implode in on itself. It's easy in this case then to imagine Chris Clark in his studio as if he himself a mere witness too. A self-destruction of some apocalyptic-scale calling - pulled down by its own gravity of might and control...leaving nothing but a wasteland-esque of glitchy drum pads and a fog of melodic harmony. It leads then the album closer, 'Penultimate Persian' into, indeed, its own self-reflective naturism, pitched synths and organ-like humming clashing against one another, leaving only a faint echoing of warped (pardon the pun) outspokenness.

It's easy to see then why Clark is regarded as one of Warp Records' most iconic figures in the electronic music market. His total disregard for blissful re-imagining and fantastical ideals, leaves only a harsh, rusty - and so too, dark-natured - realization on the raw intensity of artificial sound. In an age drowning in security, protocol and automated optimism, it's invigorating - refreshing, even - to find something so against this 'cotton wool-wrapped' idealism. Something that, takes one look at blissful ignorance...and stabs it in the heart.



Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sleeping In The Aviary - Great Vacation!

“Great Vacation!” is Sleeping in the Aviary’s third album release, following “Oh, This Old Thing” and “Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Motel”. This album is unlike their previous others. While SITA had formerly been rawer sounding with simpler sound that were less refined, “Great Vacation!” has high quality sound and layers of textures which makes it easier and more interesting to listen to. In this album the listener notices a heightened maturity level and a more imaginative array of topics addressed in their songs.

The opening song of “Great Vacation!” is “Y.M.C.A (No Not That One)” starts off with a very catchy riff that is repeated throughout the song. The lyrics of this song are superb. Beautiful imagery is used (“Came to you on a beach, sand between my feet, seaweed for a beard, the ocean licked my toes, they took off all my clothes”) with the sound of gargling water, which gives the listener a sense of being in the ocean. The use of harp and airy vocals during the bridge breaks up the song well. This song is very dynamic and keeps the listeners engaged.

The proceeding song is my favourite on the album. “Weightlessly In Love” is a dreamy song about lovers away from earth. Elliot Kozel, the vocalist and guitarist, did a fantastic job with light and airy vocals to convey weightlessness and lack of gravity in this song. The concept of being in space and away from gravity is a metaphor for being away from home and not weighed down by the presence of others. The lyrics are extremely heartfelt and loving; “Who cares about studying stars when we could be kissing on mars, sun moon me and you, weightlessly in love”. If my boyfriend and I moved to mars together, this would properly express our experiences and love for each other. While the song is about a fictional topic, it is still relatable.

“You Don’t Have to Drive” stands out with the vocals cutting through the twang guitar riffs and simple drumming patters. This song is less refined and reminds me a lot of their older albums. The loud cymbals during the chorus and the general distortion are very different from the first two songs on this album and I am not a fan of this particular song.

Ever wondered what would happen if your partner forgot “the safety word” during a kinky sexual experience? Well “Maria’s Ghost” may give you an idea of that experience. While I do not like the unnecessarily loud and beating intro, the lyrics are comical (“Sunday morning she would whip me right up to the edge, I would grip and grin in silence, but now she’s dead”) but also pleasant and catchy (“Lips like fresh cut honeydew, Dried and cracked now cold and blue oh doo bee doo”). The ukulele gives the song a happy feel despite the grave song topic. The horns and whistling solo make this song seem older and similar to early Beatles music.

“Last Kiss On a Sinking Ship” depicts the heart-wrenching story of lovers facing death while 150 miles away from the shore, “You’re the only girl I’ve seen that looks about my age who hasn’t sunk below the waves, so come on and touch me no one can punish us”. Harmonies and background vocals from a female, probably their accordion player Celeste, compliment Elliot’s voice beautifully and add depth to the song.

“Black-Out Fun” is so cute!! I love the background “ohh”s and “ahh”s make the song feel older and more vintage. The guitar is very boxy instead of having a riff or effects like in the other songs. While this song is very short at 2:12, it is still adds a lot of dimension to the album.

While all the songs on this album are okay, “Nothing” is my least favourite. I find it very boring. When I listen to it, I feel as though I will fall asleep. The guitar effects sound cheap and the song sounds the same throughout, nothing breaks up it up or keeps me interested.

“Axes Ground Looth Tooth” is sung predominantly by a female, probably Celeste again. When I first listened to this album, I almost thought this song was a mistake and my iTunes player had skipped the rest of the album, but low and behold, this song does in fact belong. This song sounds very strange and foreign to me. While most of the album had been guitar based, this song has pounding piano chords and a baritone singer under the light female vocals. I am also confused by the name of this song and the lyrics don’t seem to make sense “We were wrong, we were wrong, all that glitters is not gold, a gust of wind told us no, secrets got scattered around”. This song is just strange.

Another boring song on this album is “Start the Car”. It sounds like if all their songs on this album had a song baby, this would be that baby. It takes the common elements that “Sleeping in the Aviary” has used on this album and puts them all together. The bending guitar sounds make me want to fall asleep and the vocals are flat and boring.

One of the best stories told in a song on this album is “The Very Next Day I Died”. The lyrics describe scraping your knee, loving a girl, getting a job, getting married, getting rich, having kids, quitting drinking, being left by your wife for your brother, and dying the very next day. At the end, it describes trying to get past the ‘pearly gates’ into heaven but being stuck in line. I found this song dynamic and engaging. I love the irony the lyrics describe and the vocals seem genuine and frustrated.

As with all of Sleeping in the Aviary’s albums, there is a long pause of silence, then a random song, which does not fit in with the rest of the album starts. “Untitled” features falsetto vocals from Elliot signing with more electronic effects and dreamy textures. This is a bizarre ending to this album.

One thing I disliked about this album is that it is not very well collected or brought together. Each song has its own identity, which is pleasant, but none of them sound related and are about completely different things. I would have liked to see a common theme or something to give this album organisation and unity.

This album was a great transition for Sleeping in the Aviary. While fans of their older material may feel lost while listening to this album because of the huge change in genre and style, new listeners may embrace this album and its individuality. I have never seen any band create stories and use such beautiful sounds like SITA have. I love them!! download the album here.. 



Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing

Ignoring the obvious and almost laughable Jeff Mangum vocal impressions... The Rural Alberta Advantage are a Canadian Indie Pop/Indie Rock three piece. They released a string of demo albums leading up to that well received 2008 album, Hometowns. They take influence from a number of sources around the Indie spectrum, naming a few.. Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. Being a fan of the outstanding Hometimes, I was looking forward to the release of Departing. This said, I was surprised by the lack of support leading up to and following the release date in March. 

We're hit with a well produced acoustic guitar and slow, but heavy drumming on the opening song 'Two Lovers'. This song has lovely piano and a truly fantastic drumming pattern. It's not too heavy, but it's loud enough to make an impact above lead singer Nils Endenloff's vocals. Although the vocals are very Mangum like, he still adds his own, Canadian touch. Without this, the band wouldn't be as special or original. Not that I'm calling them original, far from it.. They're just another Indie Rock band in my vision.

A topic most relative to Indie Rock/Pop is love and heartbreak. These themes are dotted around Departing, especially on the second track, 'The Breakup'. With energetic, dense drumming, it allows a melancholic piano riff to take place alongside synthesized strings and Nils high pitched vocals. You can actually here bits of bass during the chorus, other than that.. It's invisible. We don't hear guitar either in this song, interesting. It's the same on the third track, 'Under The Knife'. It's evident RAA have taken a more melodic, electronic influence into their music. Leaving out both bass and guitar to play piano and synthesizer. It's an interesting development for this album because Hometowns had lot's of guitar twinges and compact instrumentation. We don't hear any of this on Departing.

The brighter and Arcade Fire-esque 'Muscle Relaxants', uses a straightforward guitar riff with some distortion and chorus. Combining it with that simple progression and unitary song structure, where the bass, synth, guitar and vocals all follow the same pattern, with the drumming keeping the time signature relevant. it's a little different for 'Northern Star', this track has a slow piano riff with cold lyrics and an effectless drum kit. Finally an Indie band that don't add effects to their drums.

The songs are very nostalgic to Nils. He takes what he's learnt from life in Toronto and uses his past memories to create that vision of a lost, past life in the Canadian countryside. Some songs really point this out like 'Stamp' and 'Tornado 87'. I like reading the lyrics and I think Nils expresses his feelings rather well using RAA as his output, although 2/3rds of the band originate from Toronto and all the songs are about Alberta.

It goes from strength to strength. First with the percussive 'Tornado 87', then with the fast paced guitar track 'Barnes Yard', which is my person favourite on this album. It features a very stylistic vocal and the progression sounds a lot like early Kings of Leon, I'm thinking 'The Bucket'. I've been craving for this song, the whole album is one light easy going meaningless piece of music (to me), but this track was a relief. You have to have at least one fast paced, hard hitting song on an Indie Rock album and this is just that. Fast chord changes, speedy vocals and actual bass.

'Coldest Days' is one of the sadder, mellow songs on the album. It has very sparse guitar work and reverbed piano, but again the vocals are prime In The Aeroplane Over The Sea-core. So It's hard what to make of it. On one hand you have this beautiful lyrical song with great instrumentation, but then you hear that high pitched voice and  you cant picture anything else, other than Jeff Mangum in a Christmas sweater holding a chicken.

The album ends with one of the more atmospheric songs on the album, 'Good Night'. It's a nice little happy Canadian song with a bright acoustic guitar riff and supporting vocals by keyboardist Amy Cole. Who up to this point has only made brief vocal appearances, unlike the debut, Hometowns where she sang on several tracks. This song has lovely drumming which sounds so fresh that it's not been dubbed with reverb, because this whole song sounds like it's been recorded in one take in an empty factory.

I do like this album, but it's nothing compared to the debut. Where the debut had compact, impressive tracks. Departing just doesn't sound full. This could be due to a lack of instrumentation, but in my opinion I don't think they've fully advanced as a band, since the debut came out in 2008. That's a real shame because I was very excited for this album and it doesn't hold it's weight well. I'm really surprised about the lack of attention this album has received. They're not the biggest band in the world, not even a household name in Canada.. However I was expecting a bigger critical reception due to Hometowns ultimate strengh. None the less, this is a straightforward, 30 minute album with great lyrics and brilliant musicianship, it's a real shame they couldn't give anything more captivating, but I'll settle for the Mangum vocals.


Friday, 23 December 2011

Fang Island - Fang Island

Fang Island are a Brooklyn based Indie Rock, Math Rock band who have released a string of EP's since 2007. They signed with Sargent House who have fellow Math Rock bands Adebisi Shank, Maps & Atlases, And So I Watch You From Afar and the Post-Rock group Red Sparrows, on their roster. Fang Island have been touring this album since it dropped almost two years ago. Selling out shows all over the shot. They played a few shows here in the UK, but they were mostly bar/club type venues. The UK touring circuit has a huge gap at the moment because bands are either playing small venues or these gigantic arenas. University venues have more a less become extinct from touring schedules and the ones that are still around, don't take on these smaller, hip but cult bands like Fang Island. I cant blame them though because Fang Island are not exactly the most known band here in the UK, it's not like Radio 1 will play 'Daisy' and give the album a plug.

Ok, the general consensus. This album was huge in summer 2010. I'm not just talking Plastic Beach by Gorillaz huge, but Album of The Year huge. It gathered mass amounts of hype for their innovative techniques and fast, heavy style of playing. You listen to the opener 'Dream of Dreams', and hear crackling which is supposed to be the sound of fireworks. The little synth riff comes in and then eventually the organ is heard, then the layered vocals.. which syncs into the second track 'Careful Crossers'. The heavy distorted guitars come in releasing pure energy as each member plays his role in creating this happy, sunny vibe. It's an instrumental track and it shows what the band are capable of creating.

'Daisy' is the single. It's the same ingredients as before with organs, synths, layered vocals.. heavy drumming, right sided electric guitar then left sided electric guitar, a change in drumming tempo then a little breakdown before going into some kind of structured verse. They just want you to dance around the room with a smile on your face, that's what I get from this song anyway. I'm sure many others do, which has led to the most common label of 'Everyone High-Fiving Everyone'.

They're just a band that want to make you smile, and I'm listening to it in December with a smile on my face, the same smile from when I first heard it in March 2011. I think they accept constructive criticism, but what can you really say to them.. They're a skilled band with a decent, fun, debut album. In my opinion, they sound like an American version of The Go! Team. They have the same compact sound and a fun attitude towards making music, it's clearly visible in these bands.

I love 'Life Coach'. It has a dirty guitar riff and a solid vocal. everything just comes together as one easily, it's something they should be proud of because a lot of bands fail to create that full, unitary sound. You can hear some great harmonic vocals towards the end of this track, with lots and lots of layers of distortion, supporting vocals and heavy, eager drumming. It's the same story with 'Sideswiper'. It has a lovely little acoustic guitar segment stored away neatly around the half way point.

One of the major flaws is the amount of similarities between each track.. It's original to a point, but when you're repeating the same techniques and delivering the same sound in the same style, everything just sounds the same. They use the same guitar effects and the same synthesizer settings on each track. This just sound bland once you've heard the first four/five songs. 'Davey Crockett' is much different however. They abandon the fast paced heavy guitars and focus on a melodic synthesizer riff with light percussion, and clear harmonic vocals for once. After two minutes, the bass enters with lead guitar  and a repetitive guitar riff just raising the volume so it seems. This song ends nicely, it has some happy clapping among the layered vocals and leads straight into 'Welcome Wagon', which has that same additive texture we hear all over this album.The album closes the same way it opened, with fireworks and little organ riffs.

It's only half an hour long and I'm glad to be honest. Any more and people will be emitted to hospital with a severe case of happiness.. But it's a lovely little album, I would have liked to hear more vocal based tracks and something different from the bands norm. I'm not complaining though, I think it's a decent all year round album, not just for the summer. It didn't make my list of the top 10 albums of 2010 because, it's not that great. It has it's flaws and one of the major criticisms by myself is the 'novelty' like image the album holds. But it is a fun album, I enjoyed it, I continue to enjoy it two years past release and hopefully the sophomore album will have an improved sound.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Music In General: Top 50 Albums of 2011

50. YoungTeam - Daydreamer
49. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
48. Iceage - New Brigade
47. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
46. Feist - Metals
45. The Go! Team - Rolling Blackout
44. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
43. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong
42. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
41. Moon Duo - Mazes
40. The Horrors - Skying
39. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
38. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
37. Battles - Gloss Drop
36. Yuck - Yuck
35. James Blake - James Blake
34. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
33. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
32. Björk - Biophillia
31. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
30. The Field - Looping State of Mind
29. Lykki Li - Wounded Rhymes
28. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
27. WU LYF - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
26. Low - C'mon
25. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
24. Panda Bear - Tomboy
23. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
22. Atlas Sound - Parallax
21. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Spirit

20. Real Estate - Days
19. The Weeknd - House of Balloons
18. Wild Beasts - Smother
17. EMA - Past Life Martyr Saints
16. Destroyer - Kaputt
15. Tim Hecker - Ravendeath, 1972
14. The Antlers - Burst Apart
13. Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow
12. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
11. Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place

10. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
9. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
8. Gotye - Making Mirrors
7. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine
6. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
5. Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
4. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
3. Braids - Native Speaker
2. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
1. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Röyksopp - Melody A.M.

It's become an uncanny sight as to how chillout and downtempo have seemingly migrated as if one gigantic swoop to the northern quadrant of European music scenes. Neither ambient nor purely electronic - too structured to be considered the former, too mellow to be identified as the latter - it sits in that tiny middle-point, a sort of musical no-man's land that shares no common geographic identity. It's here then have we witnessed its rebirth and re-envisioning of its materialistic nature in not just the western corners of this continent but also, more specifically, in the upper reaches. Whether it's the icy droned soundscapes of Norway's Biosphere or the ambiguously treaded layerings of Swedish duo, Carbon Based Lifeforms, chillout has found its heart in the icy and somewhat frivolous mystery of the wintry ascension that is the Nordic community.

It's here then in the upper city of Tromsø that we find musical aviators Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland - better known as Röyksopp - their debut release Melody A.M. and a ten-track record that from initial sight is provided with little more than a visual give-a-way that is its front cover - an ambience of swirling twilight-litten clouds above a lone accumilation of winter trees.

It's surprising then that such an album cover is little more than a vague teaser as to this album's true intentions and overall musical direction. We start off with opener 'So Easy', effect-laiden keys - as if drowning in them - shimmer between a chorus of other-Worldly voices and woven string arrangements. What initially feels like a low-tempo easy-on-the-ear track soon picks up, steady drumbeats mashing together with wavering buzzes of electronic jargon before returning once more to the calm collectiveness of its former orchestral-esque nature.

It's a track that is easily one not bound to any particular formula. But it's on the following composition, 'Eple' where we learn that it is in fact the album that seems to be laden in this sense of dual naturism. For someone who considered this an 'autumn-becoming-winter' album, the beat-dominated keyboard and stamp of drumbeats suggests a more warmer and outgoing nature (indeed, the accompanying music video is a super-glued compilation of photo-montages of family holidays and collective get-togethers) to an album that at times feels more like a lone journey; a personal state of reflection and of one's own naturism as an individual.

'In Space' further amplifies this sense of lonely self-discovery, gentle distant strings of both guitar and violin alike provide the foreground to a frosty soundscape of high-laiden ambience, its rhythmic accumulation as a result both warming in its sound leaving a frosty afterglow as the sounds progress.

But it's on album highlight 'Poor Leno' that clearly demonstrates the album's illustrative use of music. Guest vocalist, Erlend Øye, his voice flying across the soundscape in all its simple and warmful, compact manner - 'Poor Leno/where you'll be I'll go/where you'll be I'll know/where you'll be I'll find you'. And before long, it's swiped away by this steady beat of slushy percussion and bass. Much like the 'Leno' in this case (as featured in its music video) we find ourselves whisked away, almost dragged, across this stretching landscape of slushed synth overlays and pounding instruments as if looking for something. The song gives no indication as to what we're meant to find, or even for that matter, be adventuring towards. But it seems not to matter given the way the song tends to sway between this warm overlay of Øye's vocals and the frosty - almost clumsy - encapsulation of instruments that make up the core of this track.

It's with a sense of irony that we think of this wintry Norwegian landscape of ice, snow and empty air that we find ourselves at the half way point. And beyond the tipping point, in a calm ascension and drastic execution of melody in 'Higher Place', the album finds itself in free fall, as if in one giant avalanche descending amidst the clouds of easy-listening and this built up collectiveness. It's here we are faced with the album's main challenge, and unfortunately, its biggest flaw.

The seven-and-a-half minute epic 'Röyksopp's Night Out' - like some warped Nordic interpretation of Krautrock experiementalism - beats down on the speckle of synths underneath while a trickle of bass wavers to and fro. From here, it's the bass that becomes the epicenter of this drastic change in events. Constuting half of the overall track - the occassional flutter of piano keys and synth layers - the mood is somewhat trampled down. There's very little in regards to actual change or even experimentation for that matter and for a band already proven to show its abilities in ascending us between and beyond a musical high, you can't help but feel a little disappointed by this lack of interest in expanding upon this track's direction. The track itself finishes just as it began, as a if one continuous free fall, never stopping, never halting.

Though it isn't all bad news...or rather, it isn't news that conforms to dealing a major dent in this wintry soundscape. 'Remind Me', their most 'pop'-accepted song, though more buzzier and energetic than its former counterparts, still demonstrates a sense of freedom and weightlessness, wobbly bass lines and bubble-like chords giving this somewhat simple-natured tune a rather innocent-minded background to jump out from.

Indeed, the lack of this wandering escapism that features so heavily on the first half of this album tends to be in smaller quantities on 'She's So', as if isolated...attempting and failing to reach out to this already built-up landscape of frosted ambience we've become accustomed to. Closer '40 Years Back/Come', as a result, becomes little more than jargon, like some Frankenstein-esque jumble of rusted synths and bobbling percussion beats. Its haunting backdrop then is reduced to little more than a vague specter of what was once - or could have possibly been - in its place.

But as stated, this is nothing to get too downhearted about. Where it lacks in structural long-lastingness from start to finish, Melody A.M. instead excels in expanding upon its sound, inviting the listener - almost dragging them - into this far-gone realm of weightless instrumentation and ghostly voices. It's an atmosphere that is both compelling and yet (to some curiously haunting degree) thoroughly interesting. It's a nostalgic trip of self-discovery laden with new-found moments of sensory involvement. It's a past you had never known was there and a future you, more than likely, will continue to follow.


Music In General: Music Development Theories Part One

From an early age we develop our characteristics and personality. Not only that, but we also learn our early taste in music within a condensed time period. This is very important, as our taste in music is shaped as life progresses. This will inform you about our differences as human beings.

Early Age Music Developments (EAMD's)

Here is a simple fact.. Our taste changes over time. so what you listen to whilst you grow up does not stick with you, but it has a major influence on your later tastes.

- Video Game Shaping (VGS)

Very simple concept here, using 10 - 14 year old Males as an example. 
The majority of us play/played Video games whilst growing up. Some of us played different games to others, but these games have an effect on our listening habits as a teenager. One example would be the common Tony Hawk's Effect (THE). This is where our music taste is taken to the next level (after Relative Parenting, which will come next.) The music used on Tony Hawk's was addicting and new to us untocuhed teenagers. The game was great and the soundtrack is one of the entry level progressions into Punk music. In the United States, this is more evident. Skating was a big thing when I was growing up because the majority of my friends all played Tony Hawk's. Putting the THE into practise, we can find out how some people managed to transform into the Punk genre and the Metal genre of music. TH2 and TH3 both had these Punk and Metal influences, as I was only 10 years old with my PlayStation 1 when I first played TH3, I loved The Ramones, Motörhead & Del the Funky Homosapien, these were my personal favorites.
It's really when we started getting older around the 13/14 age, where we began to put what we listened to from our Games Console... and placed it on CD. Nostalgia has a really huge impact on this, which will be discussed much later.
Moving on now, without giving named examples (it isn't necessary).. Games give us a push because they are forcing the music upon us. It's almost as if our generation has learnt our basic music tastes from Video Games, nothing is wrong with this at all. 
A survey I carried out upon people of my age, from 18 - 20.. Showed what I already knew. Some bought albums themselves, others.. The parents. I asked 50 people 'What was the first album you owned?'. The three most common answers are bellow.
Gorillaz - Gorillaz
Blink 182 - Enema of the State
Oasis - What's The Story Morning Glory

Without going into too much detail, I will give a light explanation into these choices. First and foremost, Gorillaz. '19-2000' was used on the soundtrack for Fifa 2002, no end of people have commented on this before as it was the opening music. It made people want to buy the album, this was in 2002, when I was 13 years old (This album was also my first album).
Blink 182, they were the essential THE band. Pop-Punk took over in the USA and a majority of 12/13 year old's were buying this album, listening to it, then going skating after playing TH2/3.
Oasis, it's simple, Britpop was still popular in 2002. As the Post-Britpop bands were kicking in, such as Coldplay and Travis.. Us teenagers were still hearing Oasis on the radio, in the car, at football games etc.. It's hard to get away from Oasis. Wonderwall was the single everyone loved, it was the song of my friendship circle, as well as in many others.

- Relative Parenting (RP)

For most of us, our parents are the people that introduce us to music. The decisions they make can shape our early stages of development. They may not know this, but they are essentially teaching us about music. What they play, what they sing, what they hate, what they like all descends on us. It can have a Positive/Negative and an opposite affect.
(Pay attention here)
Radio is and always will be the music lesson. The presenter is the teacher. and the music is the message. This will be explained later in far more detail in the section 'Music Taste Catergories'. Using myself, I grew up in rural England. My Mother is a banker and my Farther is a surveyor. My Dad isn't into much music except Lou Reed and Fatboy Slim, those being his favorites. My Mum listens to beginner level Prog Rock, Soul & Reggae.
I was exposed to a hell of a lot of music whilst I grew up, my parents were playing Lou Reed, Al Green, Fatboy Slim, Pink Floyd & Bob Marley most of the time. What your parents listen to, you listen to. That's the true case, at an early age you don't question what makes music good, It's just music, it's played to you, you have no choice in this. That then, is the basic level of EAMD's. You then build on RP using VGS or other methods of EAMD's, which will follow.

- Race & Location (R&L)

It's a matter of R&L when it comes to EAMD's. It's a sub category, if you like.. Someone who is born Black in Harlem, has a tendency to divulge into the Hip-Hop scene, this isn't racist, it's just a common occurrence. Radio airplay in this area is predominately Hip-Hop. Parents are listening to Soul records, it all leads to Hip-Hop. It can be different however, someone in the same situation may be brought up slightly differently, who's parents listen to Classical music, his/her basic tastes are changed. Peer Response (PR) may or may not come into effect here, It depends on how strong his will to learn is. For almost every location, a similar story structure can be created. Take Coventry, United Kingdom for example. Not a huge music scene, but it has music history being the home of 2-Tone Ska. Madness and The Specials have made a huge impact to the way this location thinks and talks about music. I know people from the area who are huge Ska fans, mainly because of the effect Madness and The Specials (among others) played upon the small and usually unrecognised Coventry music scene. So R&A does have a major initial impact to your listening habits, that is widely known, it may be prejudice in some cases, but it's simple logic.

- Peer Response (PR)

This is one of the external and 'chance' ways of music learning. Friendship groups at a young age tend to be stuck together until a much older age, but as you grow older, your friends do, and we all have different levels of curiosity about music. Some more than others. This may mean one particular group starts listening to one particular type of music. With you being a friend it's only natural to conform at that age, 'stick with the trends or be outcast'.
Emo, Metal & Punk are the prime examples. That's for both Males & Females, for a friendship group who are really sporty and energetic, they may be inclined towards Rock & Britpop, but this isn't always the case. This is almost certain in most cases, R&A may play a part in this. Going back to the example of a black man born in Harlem, who is exposed to Radio Airplay (RA) and Relative Parenting.. His peer's will tend to have the same type of generic upbringing, meaning they all have the same type of curiosity. So they will enter Hip-Hop, in the circle of friends.

So these are the basic EAMD's.  This is all personal opinion and each and every aspect of what I've written above could be labelled as chance or subjectivity. I obviously cant say 'If you were in a school football team, you liked Oasis', because this may not be true. But the chances are high, that's all I can mention. A fair amount of people reading this will 'wtf?'.. This is just part 1 people. Part 2 will include research into genres and our rise to music taste through commercialism and globalisation of music.

The Burns Unit - Side Show

With a photo in my hand and a CD ready to be played, all I can think of is eight Scottish homeless hipsters coming together to create a traditional Folk album. Now some of this is true, I'll leave you to decide on the 'homeless hipster' comment. The Burns Unit is a collaboration between six Scottish artists and two Canadian artists. All coming from different scenes of music, most notably Emma Pollock, the very intelligent Indie Rock writer who released an album on 4AD in 2007. We also have King Creosote, the Alternative Folk artist who had released more albums than your Dad's odd socks.

Without going into too much detail. This is a collaborative effort between several independent artists who met at a songwriting festival. they came together and starting writing songs together as a band. They all play different instruments and one member is a producer and a drummer, so they have all the ingredients without any external help other than funding and distribution. The later being absent. One thing to note whilst listening to this is the sheer volume of instruments which make an appearance. They really go all out in creating an extensive piece of Folk Rock.

The opener 'Since We've Fallen Out', starts with light drum work and various guitar extracts before settling on the left sided guitar and a simple, basic bass. The vocals are very clear which is surprising because Scottish music tends to be very hard to interpret. The songwriting team have obviously spent a very long time writing these songs because this track features some amazing lyrics, such as "Since we've fallen out, spiralled out of existence". The back half features strengthened vocals and an impressive drumming. It makes for a great introduction to the band, allowing the following track 'Trouble', to leave a similar effect. This song isn't as long as previous, but features some pretty standard instrumentation, before improved structure and key, strong lyrics. The opening lyrics, "Trouble hangs around my head, It's safer not to leave my bed", leave a fixated image in my mind. As do most lyrics on this album, but this song specifically had many short, vocal segments revealing miniature stories within the lyrics.

Without a doubt, the strongest track on the album is 'Send Them Kids To War'. With it's stylistic acoustic guitar riff and progressive bass riff. It allows room for a great vocal which is, very fast and even harder to understand than degree level mathematics. The incredibly speedy vocal leaves a great effect after many, many listens. The first listen is the worst at understanding Scottish singing, but as time goes by, so does the degree of difficulty. I am able to pick certain words out, but periods are just a complete blank. This song does have amazing supporting vocals and a solid guitar riff, but the lack of understanding in the vocals just brings my respect down for the song in general.

'Blood Ice and Ashes' features lovely piano work with a great structure and a solid, left/right drumming sequence. The strong drumming track 'Future Pilot A.K.C' has predictable bass but a strong vocal. The drumming here is amazing and features minimally reverb and delay. The beautiful, dark, piano track 'You Need Me To Need This', sounds like a Kate Bush song on first impression, but the vocals are very basic and feature a lack of character. This track does actually end well, with Celtic like instrumentation and a sped up vocal delivery.

Vocal delivery is really poor on this album. None of the members really excel in vocals apart from King Creosote who can give a very heartfelt vocal, however this album is not a sad album in general. The final three tracks are all very good, the Raga like 'Majesty of Decay' has a neat vocal and clear piano recording. With the acoustic guitar and percussion on he left, with the sitar being payed over the centre. The ska instrumental of 'What Is Life?' is exciting to say the least. With the same kind of vocal and instrumentation as Send Them Kids To War, this track has great bass and varied percussion as the song progresses. The vocals are again hard to understand, but the chorus is very strong when backup singers take effect. I don't mind the messy vocals because it's clearly intended. The obvious verse/chorus/verse structure shines bright, as does the keyboard work during the final segments of the song.

The album closes with 'Helpless To Run'. This has a keyboard riff as its base. Over this we hear a very light acoustic guitar riff and sparse drumming. The vocals are clear and as the song picks up, so does the vocals with King Creosote giving a great vocal. Drumming increases in aggression and the song ends nicely, it's a solid collaborative end to the album.

This is an all round, solid album. Nothing really stands out other than What Is Life? and Send Them Kids To War. So because of this, I cant give the album a good scoring. If you haven't listened to this album, I do recommend it because it sums up Scottish independent Folk music. This album isn't exactly Folk however, it's more of an Indie Rock / Folk hybrid, so Indie-Folk without the bullshit. This is an honest album, the lyrics are well written and each member plays his/her role. I just cant see a follow up, but I'd like the band to tour because it would be interesting hearing Send Them Kids To War in front of a live audience.