Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Favorites: Non-Metal

A recurring joke between a friend and myself concerns "muggle music." Basically, the idea is that it's music you keep around or happen to like that isn't so overtly aggressive or abrasive so as to confuse or intimidate squares. There are plenty of people who aren't "squares" at all who don't "get" aggressive music, too, of course. They are often my friends. Not everything on this list is muggle-friendly but here are some of my favorite releases of the year that I'd be more likely to throw on at a party attended by meek, hipsterish 20-somethings.

My introduction to Title Fight came sometime late in high school. My friend's Lifetime/early Saves the Day-esque pop-punk band had played with or was in contact with(?) the aforementioned group, and they, too, were very Lifetime-like. The timing was perfect, I loved Lifetime, so I thought Title Fight was the shit.

With that out of the way, while I've changed this past few years, so has Title Fight. Shed, in addition to being my undisputed MVP Summer Album, is probably the single release from this year, of any type, that I've listened to most. I guess they decided they couldn't play sped-up pop punk forever -- Title Fight circa 2011 has some slower songs, a tiny bit of alt-rock, more overt emo influence (real emo, goddamn you), but still keeps their hooks and creative, nuanced songwriting. I wish I could write any type of song as well as "You Can't Say Kingston Doesn't Love You," was written. Fuck. For a band that attracts the attention of bazillions of tweensters, you'd think they wouldn't be anywhere as good. There it is.
"Where Am I?"

I would never have heard of Cities Aviv were it not for a good friend. Digital Lows is a brisk, hypnotic journey throw a skeezy party on codeine. Prime example of an album that transports you somewhere else, only to leave to suddenly, in a state of withdrawal. Chill hip-hop. Drug music. Slick lyrical flow.

Rapper Big Pooh, best known as one third of the dissolved Little Brother, brings a Biggie flow and a keen sense of world-wise story telling reminiscent of Ghostface Killah over huge samples, barn-burner beats and huge hooks in Dirty Pretty Things. Listen to "5.13.11" and wait for your expectations of the power-dynamics of a relationship to be subverted. This was my introduction to Pooh as a solo artist.

Andrew Jackson Jihad, one of my favorite bands, mercifully, pumps out music pretty regularly. This year they released a full length, Knife Man. Similar to Can't Maintain, they're pursing more of a "full band" sound, which in this case means more electric guitars, drums, different types of instrumentation and studio doodling. This, I'm alright with. I kind of wish they would revert to just acoustic instruments again for a minute. There are some songs I hate, which isn't a first for me and this band. What's more important is the songs that I love still break my heart and speak to the saddest, smallest parts of my soul.

First Aid Kit joined the list of bands from Stockholm I listen to this year and they definitely are the first of whom that don't play death metal as they are in fact two doe-eyed folk musicians with completely arresting voices and an unbelievable sense of harmony. They didn't really release anything this year to my knowledge (Uhhhh, maybe they shouldn't be on here) but they did do a Hear Ya session in March. In my mind, the live-in-the-studio songs of these are the definitive versions. Especially on "Ghost Town," with the extraneous instrumentation on the album out of the picture and with just their voices carrying the weight of the emotion in that song, I get goosebumps. Oh baby...
First Aid Kit, Hear Ya 2011 (oh my god Vimeo suuuuuuuuuckkkkks don't fucking use Vimeo, you idiots)

I finally caught Watch the Throne during its descent. Having Kanye West and Jay-Z collaborate on an album created an insane level of hype in anticipation. When it finally dropped a lot of people were disappointed and they let it be known. When I got around to listening to it, I had lowered expectations and was blown away. While it may not be as good as it could have been and it's definitely not as good as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne is a fucking monster with unbelievable production, which sometimes honestly overshadows Yeezy and Hov's own lyrical contributions. While Disma probably has the "heaviest" album of the year in a traditional sense, Watch the Throne is the soundtrack to getting crushed.
"Why I love you (ft. Mr. Hudson)"
"That's My Bitch"

Bon Iver released a self-titled album this year and, well, the proof is in the pudding. There are plenty of "in" artists and bands right now that I think are over-exposed, puddle-deep garbage but this album proved to me that Bon Iver is the real fucking deal. With a few exceptions, he never really clicked with me but I'll be damned if there aren't some amazing songs on here. Choruses of Justin Vernons, synths, melanges of strings, and crackly, overdriven guitars meet in compositions that leave thousands of neck-bearded urbanites scratching their heads as to how exactly they're going to cover these songs at the next open-mic at their local coffee shop. One caveat: the last few songs bore me to tears. That one soft-rock song is a fucking snoozefest. Just thinking about it is making me yawn. Let that not detract you! All that boring shit happens at the end of the album, the first 4/5ths are solid gold. This also goes into the category of albums with songs that are so good they make me angry.
"Perth [Live]"

Grouper, is a one-person drone project I love. She released a double album, comprising of the two pieces Alien Observer and Dream Loss. One music journalist from NBC described this as "post-rock," which completely misses the mark: there is nothing "rock" here, just soothing, minimalistic, sleep-like drone with hauntingly beautiful vocals. Grouper, aka, the soundtrack to your dreams. To be enjoyed alone and as removed from the rest of humanity as possible. If you like either of these, do yourself a favor and listen to 2008's Dragging a Dead Dear Up a Hill, which is your new favorite album.
Dream Loss - "I Saw a Ray"
Alien Observer - "She Loves Me That Way"

Honorable Mentions

David's Town is a "compilation" of numerous "bands" from "Byrdesdale Spa," that runs a gamut of musical styles from post-punk, to oi!, to early Alt-Rock. I never actually got around to listening to the new Fucked Up album that came out this year...not that those things are related in any way. This rules. I recommend it. To you.
Redstockings -- "Unrequited Love"
Hateful Coil -- "Bull Thunder"

Punch dropped the Nothing Lasts EP this year and they count among the few hardcore bands active today I can think of worth giving a shit about. (Side note: I don't know anything about current hardcore bands right now. I could be missing out.) Impossibly heavy, outrageously fast, with POLITICALLY/SOCIALLY-CONSCIOUS LYRICS for all you apathetic dipshits who are dangerously out of touch with reality. I resist labeling bands based on the gender of their lead vocalists, but if it does interest you to know, Punch is fronted by a female person with amazingly vicious pipes.
"The Chase"

Other stuff came out this year that I've not yet listened to enough or haven't even heard of. You know how it goes. You'll spend your entire life catching up. I'm leaving for Providence for a few days on Monday. I don't think I'll finish my metal list before then. I'll do it when I get back, or, whenever I feel like it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Long Line at the Breakdown Buffet

I have not been motivated to write lately and almost all I've been listening to for the past four or five days has been Guided By Voices, who I just recently "got," figuratively speaking. I've been a little busy, too. Oh well. To get the gears turning again, I'm going to dig out another high school favorite. This is from my hardcore phase, that lasted the better part of two and a half years, roughly speaking.

File this under "ear candy"

With Honor was a hardcore band. Around 2004, when they released Heart Means Everything, their stylistic influences had converged into an gratuitously catchy union of American-by-way-of-Gothenberg metalcore and Youth Crew hardcore, a la Champion. How many gang-shouts is too many? You'll find yourself wondering that.

(EDIT -- this hasn't been sitting well with me. I don't mean to suggest that With Honor circa 2004 deals in triumphant Nordic riffs that would seem to belie their fairly generic posi lyrical content but rather the phrasing and rhythmic emphasis is distinctly mid-2000s metalcore -- consonant, thrashy, etc. You know. You know.)

With lyrical themes so overused they border on parody -- changing your life, standing by your friends, doing your best, etc. -- and what sounds like possibly the cheesiest potential fusion of styles (and make no mistake, this album is cheeseball) imaginable, Heart Means Everything sounds like garbage on paper. It also has the worst kick-drum sound on any album except perhaps Apocalyptic Feasting.

, here comes the twist)

This album rules, though. If all the breakdowns, catchy major-key riffs, and gang shouts at any time seemed forced or clumsily telegraphed, I wouldn't still put this on for the occasional spin, like I'm doing today. The word "tasteful" continually comes to mind, which is ironic considering how vulgar the constituent elements are but this album as a listen is streamlined and has little to no filler, which is very welcome. As corny as the lyrics can seem, too, they're delivered with conviction and sincerity, which is in short supply.

It's been a while since this was my "thing" and its interesting for me to look back to the mid-oughts (that's what we're calling the last decade, right?) and remember how I used to cycle between this and Annihilation of the Wicked as my go-to metro album. Check this shit out. You know you want to.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: Asshole, Genius, 62, Dead.

"The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more."

I can't imagine life without atheism. This doesn't come from fanatical devotion -- and the lazy assertion that atheism is in itself some kind of a "religion" is a major crock of shit and frankly, very tired -- but rather, there is only one way I see and experience the universe, and that is informed most strongly by philosophy which rejects the irrational. For me, it means making a better world. That's quite enough about me.

With that being said, one of the things I hate most is other Atheists. There are exceptions with some I know but otherwise, all these rare figures with whom I might have felt some measure of solidarity have been arrogant, pseudo-intellectual loudmouths (see: Glen Benton). There is something extremely prideful about this worldview; (and why shouldn't we be to some extent? By "we" I mean everyone and anyone.) and I do struggle with the feeling that I often find myself unwittingly arguing from a "nyah, nyah, nyah, you're all wrong," viewpoint so, mainly I keep my mouth shut and don't push my views on others for that very reason. There's a time and a place for that kind of discussion and while I'm completely enmeshed in a civilization with institutions, constructs, and intellectual traditions that I abide in, struggle against, reject, and/or accept (depending), that are often very Christian in origin, rarely do I ever find someone in my face telling me how wrong I am. I try to extend the same courtesy and respect.

With that established, I thoroughly enjoyed Christopher Hitchens for all the reasons I typically hate atheists -- he was viciously polemical, unbelievably rude (at least publicly), and completely inflexible and unwilling to compromise. One of the main distinctions is that Chris Hitchens had both the rhetorical precision and intellectual firepower to back up what he said and to his credit, he completely owned his actions and viewpoints, and though I do not agree with everything he ever did or said, I've long admired that kind of stubborn consistency.

For me, what set him apart from other writers was that the dream of a world without religion for Christopher Hitchens was not a matter of greedy self-fulfillment where he was finally proven right but instead a moral imperative to save humanity, as guided by ethics and compassion ("Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it"). Not petty contrarianism (not a real word) but an essential crusade to impose a state of sanity.

"We believe with certainty that an ethical life can be lived without religion. And we know for a fact that the corollary holds true - that religion has caused innumerate people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow."

I'm indebted to him for what he's shared. His works persist, even if he's dead and buried in the ground, or cremated, or being loaded into a cannon so that his remains might be shot into space.

You may like his writing. Consider him.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Existential Malaise

I'm working on a year end retrospective. Pain in the ass. I think I need another coffee because right now I'm spiraling downwards into a pit of negativity.

Speaking of which, a shoo-in for my top however-the-hell-many is this year's new full length from Corrupted, Garten der Unbewusstheit, which is, if you're acquainted with Corrupted's previous material, a natural continuation of their patience-pushing, colorless, and unbelievably bleak doom. If you're feeling a little soul-crushing despair, listen yourself to some "Garten," the first track. The words "dirge," "funeral," and "burial" come to mind.

For your reference, the youtube video is about an hour long, although "Garten" itself is around 28 minutes.

Stay fresh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Submission Blow-out, Pt. 1

I'm editing a longer Kanye West post right now and I decided I shouldn't do two non-metal posts in a row. So, instead I'm going to promote a band from whom I received a submission. More on the way, for that matter. Speaking of which, to all the bands who have submitted so far, thanks a lot for the consideration. I really appreciate that!

Homicide hail from Brazil and playing, loose, punkish Death-Grind. Total Decay, which was recorded in 2007 ,will apparently find it's way on an upcoming split. Contained within you will find vicious blasting, a monster bass-tone, and harsh dual-vocals. There are also plenty of time changes and groovy cut-time sections, but my favorite songs, "Scurvy" and "Calamity and Terror," are for the most part full-speed-ahead assaults. There isn't a lot else to say. This will fit right into your grindcore collection, next to Wormrot, Brutal Truth, and Disrupt.

Take some time out of your day and jam on this independent band

Official Myspace

Total Decay


Friday, December 9, 2011

Long Line at the Gore Buffet, Pt. 2

Disclaimer: At a certain point I realized how I can and will continue to do non-metal posts if I feel like it, hence one million posts with me talking about pro-football and uninteresting personal bullshit. So is my way.

So, on the bus a few minutes ago, I reconfirmed that Situationist Comedy is by far my favorite Dillinger Four album.

Pop-punk is a dirty business these days. I don't think I need to remind anyone what the early 2000s were like. Dillinger Four have always kept it real as motherfuckers. Did I just say that? I'm just going to go ahead with that statement. Don't let them being on Fat Wreck Chords fool you, if you're unfamiliar -- they're nothing like NOFX...you know, deplorable and annoying.

At first glance, there aren't a lot of defining features that set D4 apart (Is this the central theme of this blog? "At first glance, there might not be much to differentiate x...."), it's gruffy, gritty, spunky, catchy, powerchord punk. It's something in the lyrics, the vocals, the deft songwriting, and the signature bass tone (yes) that draws in diehard fans/suckers who will eat up anything the Dillinger Four puts out. I'm a part of that group. Situationist Comedy is them doing what they do best. Honestly, just about all of their albums have pretty similar characteristics to a degree. I could dissect this album more ("Wait, isn't that the point of this post?") but I've gotten really hungry all of a sudden.

Just for kicks, I read two Pitchfork reviews of different D4 albums. Don't read those. If you give them a chance, this band will help you feel feelings. How's that sound?

"You're going to fuuuck them after allll!!"

I listened to Corrupted on the way in. Maybe I could have talked about their newest album....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Long Line at the Gore Buffet

You know, there was a time when I wouldn't have been able to look past a band having "Maggot Infested Fuckhole" as a song title.

Visceral Disgorge - Ingesting Putridity

So, right there you have perhaps four of the most commonly used words in modern slam. The only things more brutal and slammy sounding as a band and album title would be "Disgorged Visceral Cranium - Ingesting Cephalic Putridity," or something close to that. It's almost like a Black Metal band forming under the name "Pagan Forest" and releasing an album called "Nocturnal Winter" (Which I'm sure has happened at some time, somewhere, on both accounts)

One thing I love about slam as a niche genre is it's about as unpretentious as music comes. The vocals are almost universally unintelligible, the composition is typically completely unambiguous and frank in its aggressiveness, and the lyrical content typically sticks to old Death Metal standbys such as eating and/or fucking dead bodies. You don't just casually skim slam from the surface of extreme metal the way hipsters have infiltrated black metal. That'd be like trying to make professional football hip: impossible. This assessment may only make sense to me. Whatever.

So instead of seeming passe, "Visceral Disgorge, Ingesting Putridity" sounds like a good pair of jeans to throw on, or something equally familiar and comforting. I just finally heard this band early Monday morning and I am so pleased I did. I was definitely familiar with the name (I'm banking on the probability that this has been a post at The Living Doorway at some point this year) and I'm glad I can place a sound to a band who I may have otherwise overlooked.

I'm going to set the scene. Sunday night/Monday morning, me, three friends, and two strangers are driving back to Boston from New York. Four of us are crammed in the back of a sedan and everyone is extremely uncomfortable. This goes on for about four hours. It doesn't take long for me to get real exhausted, since I'd been going on very little sleep that whole weekend. Also, an incredibly thick fog had rolled in. What that meant for me is I would nod off and then snap awake because I was afraid we were going to fly off of a bridge or something and fucking die because we were packed in like sardines and I felt a little claustrophobic. We advanced in the mix for the drive and Visceral Disgorge came on, only I didn't know what we were listening to at the time and I had to find out because I had just been inspired to stay awake. The next day, I found out who it was. Since coming home I've been listening to Ingesting Putridity a LOT and I think it's fuckin' great.

'Disgorge (not to be confused with Disgorge, or Disgorge (Mexico) writes songs with groovy, idiotic slams, blast beats, goofy sound clips, and has the decency to include some catchy, melodic riffs. It's kind of hard to say a lot about bands like this but if you like like bands that sort of sound like Devourment, you probably already listen to Visceral Disgorge. Or if you don't, you should.

I'm buying a shirt. You should buy a shirt.

"blrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh urrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggghhhhhh morrggggghhhhh"

Visceral Disgorge Merch Store (Investing in Putridity HA HA)



I'm back, baby. I've got some good stuff on the way. For now here's a video I just found of the guy from Ulcerate playing songs off of The Destroyers of All. Good thing I'm wearing a scuba suit.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Out of Town

I'm shipping out tomorrow to Brooklyn to see a reunion show on Sunday and coming back Monday to do real posts about extreme metal/extreme farting. Or, whenever I damn well please. Big cities are still completely foreign and slightly terrifying to me.

Have a pleasant weekend!