Friday, June 28, 2013

Book News! Flash Fiction and Stories and Poems, oh my!

Some of you who are especially astute may have noticed something different about the website. Look close. Closer. No, back up a bit, you're going to hit your forehead. It's at the top: we've got a dedicated fan page on Facebook! Why is this, you may ask? Well, we're going to release our collection of short stories and poems sometime this year, and we're making space for you to enjoy/ponder/criticize and despise said stories. Go check it out! We've got a couple stories posted up there right now, and hopefully they'll foment discussion such as: what is the proper way to execute a heinous criminal. And: what is that stuff they use to clean everything in a barbershop. All kinds of things you'll learn (though not that last answer)! Check back there for updates, because when we get the final draft, we'll be GIVING IT AWAY before sale! So be the first on the ground floor, though don't slip to get there! Now go and like us because we like you. Really. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rathborne Is "Soft" on Songcrafting on Debut

Rathborne - "Soft"
-out July 2
 2 / 5

We're not entirely sure where to classify Brooklyn, NY Luke Rathborne's debut full-length, but we think we can safely place it somewhere between rock and pop. It's very indie, certainly, and doesn't conform to the rules of the 3-minute pop song. These almost dozen songs have all the weaknesses of each genre: pop's simple structure, rock's straightforward execution. The execution of the almost-dozen songs also falters: the drums are indeed rock drums, and very basic hits, and the musical voice Rathborne has developed is as bland as his actual voice. It's easy to blame the young Rathborne for the weakness in song structures... and that's exactly what we're going to do. They're weak, they don't pull in with hooks and choruses, and they're just not compelling. But it's a double-team with the performances here, and a really great band could have taken these songs and made them lo-fi hits.

The two tracks we appreciate are the lead single "Last Forgiven," one of those urgent, three-minute pop songs, and the down-tempo  "Little Moment." Last things first: "Little Moment" is the odd man in the room, a slow song in a sea of quick pop-influenced tracks. It lacks that annoying percussion, and gives Rathborne room and time for his vocals to develop softer and fuller. It's quite good. "Last Forgiven" is the pop song that the rest of the album should have been: simple, up front, and, finally, a great chorus. The potential is there, but we think Rathborne just isn't ready for a full-length yet.

To sum up: dull song construction and poor performances make this one of those lame albums you can avoid. Take two good songs and leave the rest far behind: take a pass.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Today's a Good Day to Believe in Royal Canoe's Debut

Royal Canoe - "Today We're Believers"
 Roll Call Records
-out June 25
3.5 / 5

Take a sextet (tee hee) of Canadians, add strings and horns, and blend with pop until finely pureed: what do you get? Probably some sort of orchestral pop close to that of Royal Canoe. The Winnepeg, Manitobans have a winning combination on their debut full-length, one that combines deep, Megatron-like robotic voices, shouts, aforementioned strings and horns, claps, and just general joyousness; it's not unlike that raucous, singing frat party next door, but far less obnoxious and far more cultured. They shine splendidly, they keep their cool, they groove like snow tires on the open pavement, and most of all, they do it all brand-new. That is to say, they keep it fresh.

While we're not going to say Canoe is brilliant, they are confident and outgoing. On "Hold On to the Metal," they've got rhythm, and they definitely got music. Throughout the Today We're Believers, they play with rhythms and pop not unlike Dutch Uncles (who we really like, by the way), and all we're going to say is that some of the tracks are great, and some are just above-average. As in they sound good, but there's not quite that connection that bands like Deer Tick and Yim Yames always seem to get. But even though this music doesn't quite stick, it's still a lot of fun to sit back and get pulled through one like "Bathtubs," which opens up into a full on blasting chorus. Yeah, we think that's a good word to describe Canoe. Fun.

So have some fun with their incredibly layered sound. We think these guys know what they're doing already, and will only get better in the coming years. Not a necessary album, but enjoyable and recommended.

Come listen to a few tracks on Soundcloud.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Not Enough Matter on Dave Nelligan Thing's Dark Matters

The Dave Nelligan Thing - "Dark Matters"
-out now
2.5 / 5

The folk-pop that is the Dave Nelligan Thing reminds us of Chris Knox for some reason. The vocals are different, and Knox is a bit more outgoing in the instrumentals, but in both there is something organic, low-fi, self-described DIY, somehow. It's playful, it's unusual, it's that strange kid in the back of class who draws pictures of chocolate tribbles because the idea amuses him. And that's what we get from Dark Matters, the first album under The Dave Nelligan Thing from the Cork, Irelander. It's an unusual journey, but not necessarily one worth repeating.

We think the main strike against this album is the vocals. Mr. Nelligan isn't the strongest singer, and therefore for each song he must double/ triple up his vocals to give them some weight. His voice has something of a drone to it, and adding a few more layers of that only exacerbates the problem. Now, true, this isn't an album that lives or dies by the quality of the vocals; it's very dependent on lyrics and songwriting. And there, the Thing is passable. You get strange snippets of concepts, like "Hell Is a Waiting Room," the main idea of which is pretty self-explanatory; strange lyrics, "My head's full of marbles rolling around" (from "Feelings Unlike Words"). It's not quite up to Jim O'Rourke standards, and not as poetic as Wilco, but it's striving for the same thing. Sonically, it's hit or miss: "Noughts and Crosses" works, and "Dark Matter" is just too esoteric to really relax as a song. Again, we think stronger vocals would help open up these songs a lot, and likely "Been Burned" works the best of the bunch.

For a total indie, it's a good effort. There are serious decisions made lyrically and in the direction of the music. But we don't feel The Thing is at the level of some-Thing you absolutely should hear. We've still got a link at the bottom, so try a couple songs; otherwise, take a pass.

Check out the full album on the bandcamp page.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Treetop Flyers Don't Shake the Earth with "Moutain Moves"

Treetop Flyers - "The Mountain Moves"
Partisan Records
-out June 25
3 / 5

We think Treetop Flyers wins the "sounds most like Fleet Foxes" award this year. It's all about that opener for us, "Things Will Change," with its cheery guitar and constrained harmonies, acoustic perfection. Where, then, have all the pieces gone after that song? That's the question we'd like to put to the London quintet, because the rest of what they've presented here is merely average teetering on just above, passable but certainly not exceptional. They dropped the ball! And that's dangerous to do from the treetops.

To compare to the Foxes, both debuts use similar instrumentation, talent and song stylings (vocal-driven, harmonies, folk skeleton). In fact, if we were to get a computer to analyze the two, it'd probably put them on an level playing field. But they're not. What do the Flyers lack? It's that rare quintessence of music, it's the reason why we listen to music: the why. "Why" puts pure joy into performances, it makes a flatly written song engaging, it gives drive and purpose; and, no, while the gents do not lack this altogether, they lack so much of it that what could have been a brilliant album is simply... meh. Shrug. Compare the opener to "Postcards." The latter should be on the same level: it's strange, it's got shoobie do-wahs, it's new and inclusive of older styles, but they don't pump it with the same kind of lifeblood, and therefore it doesn't breathe and flex and show how great it really should be. Maybe they got tired, or maybe they got lucky with the first track. In any case, we're disappointed to have an okay album here.

The Mountain Moves does all those boring expected things a folk/pop album should do. We suspect you'll pick up on this, too, and we just have to give it a pass.

Check out many songs on their soundcloud page!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And a new look!

Come check it out! Nice, huh? Thought we'd surprise you and all. Yes, those are our records (impeccable collection, no?). Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More Ravings for Ya - About the Blog

Hello ones and all!
We just wanted to address some things about our blog. Yes, it's been a good three or so years of running it, and we still haven't really addressed y'all that well about how we go about doing things. So better late than never, though in this case maybe never would come off cooler.

So then, the stars (actually they're just numbers): we feel that an album must be above and beyond average to merit your time. Hence, 3 un-stars doesn't cut it, but 3.5 just barely does. We often award around the 2.5- 3.5 range because we've found that most albums, by and large, are somewhere in the average range - slightly above or slightly below. Why do we do this? Furthermore, why do we feel this is right? We've found that, with all this fancy-schmancy producing and mastering-trickery, that most songs tend not to go too low on the listenability scale. We get a lot of music through, and for the most part, we're not getting the kind of stuff where someone flatulates (yes, that is not a real word) on a low-quality mic and loops it 1700 times for a five-minute track. It is almost always a high-quality mic.

Number two: we get a whole lot more emails than you can shake a recording stick at. At least fifty a day on weekdays. So we go through and listen to singles, drop the ones that really don't interest us, attempt to enjoy the ones that mildly do, and spring for the very very few that we think are worth our time. If we could, we would find the time to review everything that comes our way. But we don't get paid for it, save in music, so we're going to try to get the best music we can with as limited time as we've got. So when you see something panned like that review of The Features (which we held such high hopes for!) it's often there because the single was great, but the rest of the album just sucked upon delivery. We also get the occasional ultra-indie band doing their own PR, (that's Public Relations, the people who intermediary for bands and magazines), and we try to do all the full-length albums the small guys send our way. We've found a couple (Bella Clava, Bury Me a Lion) that were worth our time.

So what is our feeling on reviewing? We feel a lot of music is just plain average right now. It's mixed and put together well enough that none of it - or very little - is truly pathetic, and that it generally satisfies some sort of itch that someone out there might have. But ultimately, if a lot of the stuff is average, you're still only going to have $7.39 and two worn buttons to spend on music for a year (if you're like us). So we want to put all that average stuff aside, and get you to listen to the above-above average albums, stuff like Dutch Uncles and Beware of Darkness. That's where we feel we do a service to you guys. And gals.

But we want to hear more from you! Is there anything you want us to review? We'll do it (granted that the album comes in)! Are there reviews that you felt were unfair, or just way off-target? Well, you're wrong, but let us know about them anyway! We know we're not charging you a thing - money or time spent on ads that aren't there - but we want to get you the best reviews that we possibly can, and that starts with your input. Where else do you go? What do we do right/wrong/really really right? What are the most efficient ratios of the sides of an isoceles triangle to maximize area given a limited perimeter? (That one's tricky - it's an equilateral triangle!) So feel free to give us your feedback in any form, and we're generally sad enough to respond individually to all of you. Each and every one.

We know we don't have the pull of a Paste or Elmore, but where we feel we do better is that we don't laud every crummy little indie band that's out there. Seriously. Haven't you noticed that almost everything covered on Pitchfork is transcendent and brilliant and illuminating and really pretty good? That's really not the case, especially if you have less than infinite money to spend on music. (That and a lot of places just post up all those PR releases that we get, too - way to be impartial.) Go forth, support your indie blogs, and find good music, young man. And young woman, too.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fate of Whitehorse Album Depends on Two Good Songs

Whitehorse - "The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss"
Six Shooter Records
-out now
2.5 / 5

Canadian folk band Whitehorse jumps right out of the gates. The husband-wife duo start right off with such a strong opening that we're left wondering what's to come. Unfortunately, not much is the answer. The quality of their writing is so uneven that it astounds us, and the vocals that drive these songs are similarly uneven.

"Achilles' Desire" is one of those great openings, dark country, saloon gunfight kind of pace to it, that captures our heart. It's strange and brilliant that it's something of a love song, but in a sweaty, western kind of way. The chorus on the following track, "Devil's Got a Gun," is just well done. Congratulations. And the next track is also fairly good, but beyond those first three, the album falls entirely flat. We don't know why that has to be. But we can tell it has something to do with overusing that low-end guitar as the opening hook; after "Devil," it starts coming off cheap and unimaginative. It's too foregrounded in "Jane," which also suffers from lax vocals. And "Peterbuilt Coalmin" is probably the weakest of the songs here, which also uses that same kind of opening, and again tries to sell those bland vocals to us. Sorry, we're not buying!

We suggest giving just the first few tracks a listen, but otherwise, you can take a pass on this one.