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Breton Parks – The Cloven Ips
Breton Parks has been roaming the streets of Littleton Colorado since he could walk, but he’s been passing his music around since June of last year (2011) when he put out his first album “Whelk”. The time between those two events, maybe the most important in a musicians life, is a lot shorter than the distance Park’s influences have had to cover in their own lives.
The songwriting biases on “Whelk” were clear and many code words could be used to describe Parks’ music but the easiest would be late 80s/90s. This album bleeds with the sounds that made that era of music nothing short of an obsession for me, there might even be an influence from my favorite band of all time, Husker Du.
Park’s has made it clear that he’s a 90s kid, whether you take that to mean that he was born in the 90s or born to grow up in the 90s, he has clear right to stake his ground there. Riding the loud and soft dynamics of the Pixies, singing in a falsetto pulled straight from J Mascis’ mouth, production that could have been from any Lou Barlow project, and Replacements-esque riffs this album is just a smoothie of 90s roots. Anything that could’ve been called punk in the 80s, but was also the reason grunge and alternative rock rose to fame in the 90s, is what influences this album. Which, like I said, that’s a soft spot for me so as a fan of his influences; I’m also a fan of this album.
When I put an album like Pile’s “Dripping” as 35 on my top 50 albums of 2012 list, it makes it clear that it’s hard for me not to like something like this; I mean shit, Bob Mould was my #1. The point of all of this being, that Parks doesn’t exactly put a new spin on this sound. This is an extremely solid listen all the way through, and it’s worth mentioning that Parks is more mature as well; the production is better, the lyrics are focused away from his age, and the songwriting at its catchiest. Compared to his first album this is a vast improvement. None of that changes the fact that this album shines more light on music that’s already been created than itself as a new album, though that may have been the intention.
“Bring Me Along” opens this album like any Dinosaur Jr. album would; most of the attitude starts here as well as the sound you can expect through the whole album. When I first heard the single “Figure it Out On My Own”, I was bored but it’s so much more enjoyable as the second track on this album. Some more recognizable personality comes out on “Good Syntax” which is more or less the first ballad on the track list. That personality comes out even stronger on the track “Kingdom” which pulls the pop song writing of the 90s to such a height that it sounds like surf rock; it actually reminds me a lot of Chalk Dinosaur (a band I discovered on my old music blog). “Everything You Got” and “Similar Nature” are both songs that are impossible to get until you listen to each of them climax. “Almost” is Jay Reatard-esque, separating both of those songs so the album doesn’t break momentum, which would have worked if “You Are, What You Know” didn’t seem like such a weak closer.
This album took a leap that made it a lot more enjoyable than Park’s last and what came with that, was my enjoyment. Song by song this album gives me no reason to want to cut out of the track list early, which I’ve done over and over again. I have no doubts that someone who is a fan of most of the bands I’ve compared this to, will also enjoy this record a lot. The only thing I’m left waiting for is a more developed Breton Parks, something more definable. I feel like the opener, “Kingdom”, “Good Syntax”, “Everything you Got”, and “Similar Nature” are signs that Park’s is coming into his own; but I’m still waiting for him to hit me with something that’s only him. This project shows up with ideas that make me want to keep following the albums he makes, and I will without fail as long as they’re as good as this!
Check out the album for free on SoundCloud by clicking on the image and tell us what you think about it!
Grant Sabin – Anthromusicology Review
Grant Sabin is a bit of a character in the local Colorado Springs area. As an artist on Blank Tape Records, and a member of one of the most substantial music groups around here (Kings of Space) he’s managed to make a name for himself. Recently, he was even featured in an Independent cover story labeling him as “The King of Space”; he dropped a lot of details on this new album but the quote that most interested me was “I consider this my first album”. Sabin was definitely hinting at a new outlook on his career as a musician, which is something that a lot of KOS bands seem to be going through. Sabin is now frequenting shows with a group of songwriters that are leaving the past behind.
The Flumps have been forced to change their name to Hilltop Mansion and their shows have gone from folk sets to lively rock shows with more energy than some punk bands can muster. Daniel James Eaton, from Briffaut, wrapped up his dreamy concept album and song a day project; he is now recording the best of 366 songs with a full band made up of each front man from the rest of KOS (plus the awesome talents of Hilltop Mansion’s drummer, Alex Koshak). while We Are Not A Glum Lot hasn’t changed on the surface, at least in recent times, their music has made a huge leap in style from “This One Battle”, the first single they released. It’s not surprising that Sabin’s simple songwriting style has been pushed to become something more.
If this is his first album than we can say that Sabin’s previous three efforts are just label backed demos. At 17 we got “Listen and Learn” which was an impressive album for an artist that young. This was the first listen from a monster slide guitar player but other than the novelty of age and technical ability, it didn’t offer much more than blues fans would expect from Son House and Robert Johnson. Most recently reissued in 2009 was “A Cold Day In Hell”, which was a failed attempt to be even more like the acoustic artists (sadly most people would call “sad people with a guitar” music). Though, the rock side of Sabin’s music came back with force on “The Homesick EP” and it was clearly the best thing he’d done yet. While I’m a fan of the artists, Sabin (along with most other blues artists) has been trying to emulate (at least the ones I assume he does); I’m also aware that their time has past. The style of blues is no longer exciting by itself and the emotion that came with being part of what was a progressive folk movement, has faded. Blues has been changing as long as it’s been around.
This next paragraph is more important to me as the reviewer than it will be to the next person who listens to Sabin’s album, though I’m leaving it in for personal context. Robert Johnson‘s simple melancholy songs became a 50s anthems when Elvis Presley decided to make music.What is now called classic rock got blues slapped back on to it’s name when The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Rolling Stones became icons of blues rock. Much like everything else from the 70s, the same songs that Mick Jagger sang where made smoother by bands like ZZ Top and Dire Straits. In the 80s blues rock went pop, ZZ Top was no longer the same band that wrote “La Grange” and fans depended on Aerosmith for their radio blues rock fill. Barely hanging by a thread, Blues Traveler kept themselves in the lime light but it wasn’t till the 00s that we got the blues back the way I listen to it. The big three… The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and The Kills came back and brought blues back harsh and passionate. Now that the blues is back, it’s starting to get harder to find artists who arrant just trying to re-do what’s already been done. Stray Suns and Ray Dio (both local artists), seem to be ready to meet that call. Even in the mainstream we have bands like Alabama Shakes, so the next step would be for Grant Sabin to launch his personality into this decades movement, this is a genre that can’t remain stagnate.
Recently KOS has been using Sabin’s music, very successfully and maybe accidentally, to hype their crowd into a frenzy. “Rice Farm Head” has been the song that, without fail, gave one man and one acoustic guitar the power to lead the fans into the next band’s mosh pit. He’s been playing that song live for a while now, and it’s almost a trick. With Sam Erickson (of WANAGL) on backing guitar, Alex Koshak on drums, and other contributions from KOS throughout the album, there is no reason why he should be performing alone. Especially when they offer much more to this album than Sabin’s new found respect for awesome cover art (LOVE THAT ALBUM ART).
The kind of ideas that made the gems on his older projects, like “Hard Hearted”, “Weeds”, and “Condolences”, are now being fleshed out. There was more work put into the writing of each track, along with a huge leap in production quality, and extra instrumentation to rock the fuck out. From the dreamy Briffaut influenced opening, “Dreams” (yes I know that was a bad joke) you can tell you’re in for a brand new Sabin. “Devil of Mercy” picks up the intensity a little bit more but that’s nothing compared to the bruising riffs all over “Temptress”. That song is a ball kicker of a track and (I just realized how bad this order of words sounds) It was the first song I fell in love with when I heard the riff in the trailer. Instead of being flashy, Sabin plays very simple slide riffs, just to add texture to the beat down. Aside from “Rice Farm Head” and some solos this whole album pulls his technical ability back in favor of songwriting.
The real star of this album ends up being Grant Sabin’s voice, which puts Billy Gibbs’ (of ZZ Top) signature rasp to shame. You can hear cigarette smoke leaking out of each note in Sabin’s singing, and thanks to the vocal coaching he’s hitting more notes than he could have even dreamed of last year. It’s his voice that brings songs like “Letter to an Old Mirror” to the emotional forefront that “Cold Day In Hell” failed to reach. I can’t think of a voice that I would rather hear words like “Somehow I got the notion that this was a potion to cure what ails me, you never failed me” from.
There are lyrical highs and lyrical lows on this album, but even the lows are pretty high for a genre of music that’s always been obsessed with money, women and depression (at least on the surface). In the hook for “Rice Farm Head”, Grant spouts “You can swallow your pride, or let pride swallow you, you can swat at a fly, but a fly only lives for a day”. Even at his simplest he can reach those feelings that everyone can relate to; in “Letter to an Old Mirror” Sabin gets introspective when he says “Rest in peace, you’re gone, hardly a memory, one day I’ll see you, I’ll say I used to be you”. Its clear that there’s more behind the music than the idea that it’s what makes the world go around (check the album trailer for an explanation on that one).
As long as Sabin is forced to make music he might as well be forced to experiment. While influences never die, and styles stick with you, this blues music isn’t working alone. “Iron Horses”, which is incidentally my least favorite track, dabbles in pop rock and bluegrass. “Market of Sorrow” and “Yellowhead” have a few psychedelic moments in them, the latter sounding similar to The Byrds. “Temptress” is a hard rock number and in strong contrast to “Ocean of Sirens” that is more of a folk closer (I’m acting like blues and folk aren’t connected at the hip). If you’re not getting a strong flashback to an old jazz, soul and funk classic from “Even to You” than I think you may have been through a coma you don’t know about, though Sabin knows what he did there. Sadly this might be wear my endless praising actually ends.
Outside of his voice and his extremely recognizable slide guitar playing (on a custom built guitar, no less), he has moments where he lacks personality. “Iron Horses”, “Even to You”, and “Ocean of Sirens” are all songs that sound either too much like what they’re trying to emulate, or they just feel generic. None of those songs are bad, but they are a big sag on the second half of the album. This makes the first half of the album clearly better than the second half, which prompts me to turn it off right after “Rice Farm Head”. That song is one of the most recognizable, especially in the guitar playing, but I think it also may have made the best closer. The issues I have with this album only fall on a handful of the songs, really only three, so I wouldn’t worry about it unless I was writing a review, which sadly I am.
Grant Sabin isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he is improving one of the world’s greatest inventions for a newer generation (just to be sure, I’m talking about the blues). This album brings an old style of music back with a lot of force, and when there is no force, there is usually a heavy personal hit. This is not a perfect album, and unless you’re a blues fan you may not like it (though I encourage you to try), but it’s a remarkably solid listen for a first major release. For me, a blues fanatic, this is just another kick that reminds me to drown in someone else’s sorrows every once in awhile. I can’t wait to see where Grant Sabin peeks his head into next!
Check out the album for free on Spotify by clicking on the image or watch Grant Sabin perform “Rice Farm Head” by clicking here. Tell us what you think about it!
wolfe. – iamwolfe. Review
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Briffaut – Self Titled Review
This is gonna be another long one…
You should do yourself a favor and get a decent pair of headphones to vibe out to. That’s a public service announcement for [the sad writer who’s blew out ;’(] music fans, iPod owners, and production hounds alike but more specifically it’s tailored to this album. While the production here might be an acquired taste it is a big part of the experience which is, almost, short of impossible to understand until the sound fills all the space you can take away from it.
Briffaut is currently Daniel James Eaton, Grant Sabin, Alex Koshak, Sam Erickson and Dino Belli. Which, pretty much, makes them a supergroup made up of front men. Each band in Kings of Space contributes their most prominent member, plus The Flumps drummer who has proven to be a member of every band in Colorado Springs. Though most of these songs, with the exception of maybe the first three, were written, and recorded, exclusively by Daniel James Eaton when Briffaut was only him.
I think that’s where my conflicts begin. The songs here are all memorable, catchy, engaging and in some cases addicting. It’s that last one that is taking my perspective one way or the other. I keep coming back to this, and every time I do I listen to it a different way, just on instinct. I’ve gone through over and over; to listen to it lyrically, melodically, to hear production, to understand songwriting, to focus on the vocals, and each time I find something different to grab onto. The effect that has on the listen is almost like dreaming under the influence of something (I don’t know what but something).
Briffaut is like a combination of Bob Dylan and Animal Collective, and I know that either sounds awesome or completely awful, but try and bare with me. Strictly this kind of music is described as “Dream Pop” which is easy to hear for fans (AKA Animal Collective fans), but any average listener will hear a riverbed out folk album (average and fans are just distinguished by the frequency of which you listen). This is just a long way of saying that my preferred genre label, for this album, is “Dream Folk” (I hope I coined a term, just then). The vocals are very light, and upfront through the whole album and ,while I wouldn’t compare the style, they have the same effect as Bob Dylan’s “Stranger Voice” ( if you don’t know what I’m talking about turn on the original version of “Like A Rolling Stone”, when he does that half screaming half dying dog noise at about 1.35m in on the line “juiced in it”, you’ll get it). I make fun of that voice but at the same time both of these artists use their vocals to make you listen to what they’re saying. It’s their way telling you to listen to the big picture, you can’t listen to this bar by bar. Different than Bob Dylan though, Briffaut says can’t even listen to this song by song.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the concept, not because I don’t get it but more because Briffaut has already written an abstract, that describes it way better than I can, on his bandcamp.The, short, long story is based inside a dream, from both the perspective of the dream and the emotions that come with finally getting a good nights sleep. The main character here is not just lost in a dream, but at sea, figuratively, emotionally, and ,in a way, literally. The first time these songs were released there were only 6 tracks, and now that Daniel has a grip on the story he wants to tell, he’s added three more to set up the dream the listener is about to dive into.
Telling a story of a failed relationship, “Bright Shiny Morning” is the set up to the story of this Insomniac. It’s a really pretty track, probably the most beautiful opener on any album that I’ve heard come out of this project (The Kings of Space). “The West” bares a resemblance to another local band, Drug Flowers,until the keyboards break the intensity and bring back a sense of beauty. This tail, which is told with an undeniable urgency, is about a post war man. A post war man who becomes a broken man on a track that sounds similar to the first, “What Is Now Everything”. Than the story actually starts; “Magic Words” meanders, is repetitive, simple, and does not resolve into anything which are all things I would hate if it wasn’t done on purpose to lull the caricature to sleep.
From here on out we’re on a journey, floating adrift at sea. The ship has a captain who can’t wait to unanchor the boat and leave land. Your character hopes this captain will take him home. The ships crew is kept awake the whole journey and then the captain has to take his revenge on a shark (Incoming Transition being my favorite track and my favorite random story line switch). Greed takes the captain and his ship down where everyone remains adrift and our character will never find his way back to the Ganges. Than we wake up and the story starts over, that’s the brilliance, he’s created a recycling story that re tells this album when set on repeat. This character just lives his stress repeatedly, just like we do.
The story, just like dreams, is disjointed and yet somehow keeps itself on topic (which is what I hope this review is doing). Even sonically the only thing that stays consistent is an acoustic guitar and a songwriting style. (Bringing the first point back) The production, covers, these tracks in synthesizers, keyboards, sound effects, reverb, self harmony, and maybe a vocoder slathered all over, all in the name of storytelling. I feel like a headphone listen is the only way to try and pull all of these pieces out, but no matter how I listen I feel like I can’t focus on them as a whole. This is where I think the album falls short; I know all these songs were written around the same time but they don’t feel like they were meant to fit this concept. I feel like similarities were noticed, and Daniel just placed them in order with new production. I don’t want to put words in the writers mouth, but his written abstract pretty much states the conclusion I came to.
Briffaut has proven a lot with this album; it displays incredible songwriting, great story telling, and the ability to improvise an entire world out of a few lyrics. They’ve covered these songs in production that forces the listener in but then falls short of directing them. A concept album has to work like a movie; the soundtrack has to work with the imagery and plot in order to come out the viewers head whole. I feel like this story came out fractured and even though that is a fault, it keeps me coming back to peace it all together. Now that Briffaut is a full band I can see the problems with production and mixing turned on their head the next time around. Given the passion I hear through this, I know we’ll be hearing a next time.
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the album in it’s entirety by clicking the artwork.
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The Flumps – Scattered Light Review
Go get a sandwich, some lasagna, a soda, wash your socks, get a full 8 hours of sleep, and measure your toes because this is gonna be a long one… The Flumps have been running around rampaging the Colorado Springs/Florence music scene in heavy rotation for the past few years. They’ve made a name for themselves around anyone who’s interested in the local music scene. After building enough buzz to send them on a cross country tour, they released an album with nearly two CDs worth of material, in 2011. Divided right down the middle, with a live track, this album shows both personalities of the band, which is a scattered mess of country, pop, folk, rock, soul, and industrial rock. It’s something they prefer calling “Dirt Folk”.
The first time I heard these guys was when they did a show on the first day of the Meadow Grass Music Festival. They played an acoustic set that set the crowd into a foot tapping, head swinging, mass of contentment (is that even a word?). They just looked like they were happy to be there, and that’s what a live show should be for. The next morning I looked them up and, disappointingly, I didn’t like much of what I heard from the studio material. I still knew that they were a great live act so I drug my ass down to the, free, Colorado Springs Indy Music Awards to see them play an award winning set. The crowd had definitely heard something I hadn’t, putting The Flumps in 3rd place for best indie rock act (behind El Toro De La Muerte (in 2nd place) and We are Not A Glum Lot (in 1st)). The show I saw was definitely not the same one that they pulled off at Meadow Grass; I saw a Folk band there and I heard a Folk Rock band on record, but I saw a Rock band on stage. I remember watching Dino Belli plug his guitar back in after pulling the chord out of the amp, Alex Koshak standing up to crash the symbols on a break down, while both Hat Hatfield and Mitch Macura spun around to the grooves they laid down on bass and guitar. That performance, and the one they played with The Kings of Space, left me wondering what the hell my problem was.
The album starts with a short conversation, children talking to their father (or some other authority figure) about being given a fragile object to care for. “I drop it, I break it, I’m dead”, “No take it, don’t worry about it”, “Can I have one too”, “Sure, you can have one too”; I’m not sure where they got this, it might be a movie sample or it may even be original (the adult does sound like Dino). The sample continues through, the background, of the whole track until the instrumentation gets loud enough to cover it completely. “Accident Waiting to Happen” is the introduction to the warm sound that The Flumps carry on the first half of the album. The first 5 tracks are all produced with these subtle drones that you wouldn’t notice unless you listen to each instrument slowly get washed over leaving only the drums and piano clearly heard, which is what makes the music dirty and warming. Each song has a sense of urgency, especially in the lyrics, like in “Projections” when Dino sings “I don’t know what it is I’m running away from, but I think it’s catching up, I keep counting my blessings, but the numbers just don’t add up” or on “Grievances” when he says “I can’t believe you had to pawn it off again, you were my friend”.
The next 5 tracks are all very clearly laid out, and easy to pull apart. “Shot In the Dark”, my favorite song on the first half, starts a trend of less heavy production and clear instrumentation. The change isn’t strong enough to say that the whole mood changes, but this is definitely the more side of their acoustic personality. With Dino’s vocals even higher in the mix, it’s harder not notice when he says “bravery where have you been, you see me a coward, well we’ll meet again” or even sadder “wishing well, grant me a few? I’m so glad you love me, but so sorry you do” on the track “I’m Sorry”. They end this side with a live track that lightens the mood before they move on to the heavier. Introducing the song, “Sorry My Love”, as “a Sunday morning song about the world gone wrong”, they tell a story about being afraid of the world because of the stories in the paper but being more afraid when your girlfriend comes home. They tie in a few great lines about smoking pot, running from the cops, and asking adults to buy the cigarettes while they hide. The whole thing is a hilarious half ending.
Track 11 falls just over 1min, mixing the production and instrumentation from the first 5 tracks and throws all those sounds in a melting pot with sounds of electronic instrumentation. It “intro”duces the the first track of the electric side, which sounds a lot like “You Only Live Once” from the Strokes for the first few seconds ( I swear to god if anyone calls that song YOLO I will punch you in the face, then I will apologize, and do it again…). While this half is clearly the less lyrical “Weight of Doubt” still carries the torch with lines like “your complexion fades, thoughts erased, reflection changed from day to day”. “White Noise” is a perfect example of what The Flumps do when they turn up the amps, catchy hooks, distortion all over the place, and a driving beat (did I mention how good, of a drummer, Alex is?). You get the same great sound on “Take a Look at Me Now”, “Sunshine”, “So Why”, and “Dreams Like These”. “Take a Look at Me Now” is easily my favorite track on the whole album; it starts with a, “HTTT” era, Radiohead sounding intro and, while still being a typical Flumps track, still rings out with a distorted industrial guitar riff (from the pit of indie rock hell). They branch out further on songs like “Cut It Out” which is a strait up industrial rock track, and “Prepare Your Self (This is Happening)” which is a little obnoxious at it’s start but gets pretty interesting when Dino is screaming “break you slowly, yeah you will!”, over the repetitive synth tone. I’m a little confused on why “Severance” is on this half, it sounds way more acoustic than electric. The production would have placed it better in between “Freeze Frame” and “Projections”. However the production that track does match the sound of the next two, so it works as a transition.
Ask any band local band and they’ll all tell you the same thing, quoting El Toro De La Muerte “The Flumps are killing it”. Just listen to the tracks they have up on the web, especially “Sunshine”, and if that doesn’t get you buying this album than I hope this will. If this doesn’t, then go see them live, I’m sure you can find plenty of free shows, because that’s what it took for me.
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the single by clicking the artwork.
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El Toro De La Muerte – Dancer These Days EP Review
My first introduction to this band was four guys playing a last minute show to fill time between two sets at the Colorado Springs Indy Music Awards (that’s my guess given that the weren’t on the original schedule). For some reason they had decided to start playing an acoustic set so in my head I was watching a great folk rock band. As the cashier at The Leechpit informed me, I had not really seen this band live. IMPOSTERS, I didn’t see any of them scream once. It’s always cool to see a band in a form that isn’t what you expect, but if anyone else was there to see the same show you missed a 90s rock band, you should go and see them again and so should I.
These guys are some freak of nature built by Modest Mouse, Weezer, and The Shins like some kind of gene splicing mad man experiment. They’re lost in an age that is now 12 years old. These guys clearly wear their influences on their sleeves; each song is going to remind you of someone else but they do it so proudly that you’ve gotta love it. This is their first release and they already know their game, and they really don’t care if you don’t.
“BACK IN MY DAY, I COULD MOVE MY FEET WITH THE REST OF THEM”, there really couldn’t be a much clearer Pavement influence than on the track “Dancer”, which despite the vocals screaming in your face, makes you want to get up and move. But you do it without punching someone, okay maybe, but you should, okay maybe, it depends on who, but you probably shouldn’t, okay maybe…. It’s hard to move through an EP when you have the first track on repeat. “Things In My Head” has one of the catchiest intros and the words are practicably coming out of Issac Brock’s (of Modest Mouse) mouth, but it doesn’t have the same energy until it’s end, #punkfanproblems. The next three tracks bring the energy back full force and if the vocal melody of “The Chartering Rats”, very Shinsy, doesn’t get stuck in you’re head you’re just not human, nope get your gears checked you can’t be human. “Animals” sounds a lot like an early Weezer track, especially when the exit riff starts playing at about 2:20min in. The last track of the album, probably my favorite, goes for a much softer approach. If Edge (of U2) conceived a kid during a conga line, you would get the chorus Riff on “Like a Ghost”.
I have a feeling that everyone will be able to take these guys and put what ever label they want on them, and everyone should and will. However, whatever label you put on them wont affect that these guys are taking everything and making it their own. They give soft instrumentals a mosh worthy energy by screaming their faces off into your own. It should be clear by their name that Spanish music somehow or another makes its way into every song, and it’s clear when they do. This album takes an extremely aggressive sound and makes you want to dance to it. On top of everything else they have a seance of being optimistic even when they are negative without beating you in the head with it. If my first experience with this band live wasn’t what it was, I picture the crowd split into two halves; one in a giant mosh pit and the other dancing through the whole show, me the former.
Being a part of The Brainless Horde has been my schooling on the city I live in. Discovering that Colorado Springs is cultural on a most basic level, which is contrary to my opinion of plain vanilla. It’s bands just like this that I look out for SO KEEP IT UP “The Bull is Dead” (as translated by google).
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the album in it’s entirety by clicking the artwork.
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Foster – Emerald Lights, Fast Cars EP Review
Wherever you are reading this, it’s probably safe to say that you could use a quick refresher (fresher in this case?) on this project. The best place to start would be to look more into the influences they show. Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Russian Circles, Slint, Maybeshewill, and Talk Talk. This band steeps itself pretty deep in the style of Post Rock, a genre whose participants names read off like a Dr. Suess book and have the same effect as a child’s parents hoped reading to their kids would. Fans of this kind of music get lost in their own world when they put their headphones in but other listeners, sadly, just fall asleep. I don’t think I could explain it better then the title of an album by Swans, “Soundtracks for the Blind”.
I could list off bands I love from this genre all day, but to do so would waste your time and dilute any point that could be made about this band. Post Rock has separated itself as a genre from anything else but the influences they take from Rock couldn’t be clearer; bands like The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, and Swans are big ones. This band, however, separates themselves further away from the genre’s past because the sound palette this band uses pulls directly from their predecessors (listed above). While continuing the tradition of bending guitar strings to get out every sound possible, they never crossed the path of one that I would associate with their genre’s Classic and Experimental past. Every sound they use is an extension of the sounds Post Rock essentially invented but what keeps them from completely detaching themselves from their Rock roots is their strong connection with Indie and Classic Rock song writing.
Most Post Rock bands let their music do the talking and their voices are either absent completely or so immaculate that they feel just like another cord in the string section. Foster chooses to keep pinned to lyrics and verses, which is what warrants the Slint comparison (and Talk Talk, I almost forgot Talk Talk). I have never really been that big of a fan of Slint, which is sacrilegious to most Post Rock fans; the point of mentioning this is that Foster corrects the problem I have with that band. Slint’s vocals have always felt emotionless and they just hung off the end of the songs, like a broken eraser, while Foster does the opposite. There isn’t a moment on this album where Tanner VanBaal’s vocals don’t feel genuine in what he’s talking about. Their vocal delivery sounds somewhere between sole artists like Bobby Womack and ambient like Jónsi (of Sigur Rós), almost like the singer of Talk Talk (I can’t forget Talk Talk). The combination is a beautiful addition to the instrumentation but I can hardly understand a word. “Staying right by your side, I’m alive” is the indication that the sound is more important then the lyrics anyway and that’s what I get from them but they do leave me wondering whether it’s the production or the singer mumbling that confuses me.
The problems I have with this album start with the production. Another comparison to make with Slint is the production style which unfortunately is something I don’t think Foster was able to turn around. Almost all the bands in this style have immaculate production but this album just like Slint’s “Spiderland” has an Indie Rock, on the edge of ”lo-fi”, kind of recording. I never liked that kind of recording with Post Rock because I like to use my “peripheral hearing”. All of my favorite bands in this style force you to go deep into their songs to find sounds hidden in the mix, and that creates a sense of depth in their music. That is still possible because of the stacked instruments, that do sound dense, but they don’t make you work for it. It takes away from them because they use a sound pallet adapted from bands who do use the immaculate production style. I am a frequent listener of music like this though, so I do have to recognize that the production might be the reason new listeners might be able to grab on to this easier than where Foster started.
1. Mexican Radio
This track starts out with a short build into a heavy, Mogwai sounding, riff that goes in and out of a few Russian Circles inspired bass lines, before hitting a groove that reminds me a lot of the more melodic Mogwai tracks like “San Pedro” or “The Sun Smells too Loud”.
My least favorite track on the album starts with the kind of echoey riffs that I’ve only heard from Foster but the vocals are so awkward over the intro and the chorus that it makes it hard to keep moving through the track. When I heard the short solo work Shane Cahn lays down over the songs transition (which is catchy as hell) it kept me going through the track. It is nice to hear the female voice on this track though…
3. Hand-Picked Lemon
The riff that I couldn’t stand on the previous track is used here in a very nice groove. This is one of the few tracks that is constantly changing and introducing new sounds; it gives me the feeling and depth I expect from an Explosions in the Sky track (and Talk Talk). Though the riffing on the bridge, intro, and solo/transitions still reminds me a lot of Mogwai they are still sounds I’ve only heard from this band (correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like they are messing around with the necks of their guitars).
By this track I can tell they love messing with the guitar sounds that either annoyed me or got me really involved but from here on out they do a great job of it. This is easily the catchiest song on the album with lyrics I can actually hear, they make me want to sing along, “I wonder where they’ve been”. They also lay down a vocal melody that is catchy as hell with guitars squealing behind it, before it breaks into a heavy bass line. The breakdowns all over this track sound a lot like Maybeshewill with their Post Metal style and it leads to some really fast riffing to end the track right! They sound pretty fun on this track which only a few bands like And So I Watch You From Afar or sleepmakeswaves (and Talk Talk)play around with.
The instrumentation on this track hits all at once and and really builds a beautiful noise under the most emotional vocals on this album. This song lacks some individuality but it really makes up for it in a real sentimental feeling and a great almost Godspeed You, Black Emperor type of outro starting when the band yells “1, 2, 3, 4”.
6. Top 40
This track hits the same way as the last but it had a few nice transitions with the echoing sound coming from each instrument at the same time and ending with a really tight drum roll and loud guitars that again remind me of Mogwai at their most melodic.
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the album in it’s entirety by clicking the art work.
Please tell us your thoughts on it!
- Austin Lovelace