Record #442: Kings Kaleidoscope – Becoming Who We Are (2014)

becoming who we areOnce upon a time, the Church was the center of all high art. Most important musical and artistic works during the Renaissance were commissioned by the Church to announce the mysteries of the Divine.

But over the last few hundred years, things have changed. Christian art is now the realm of cheap, oversentimental schlock that sells on sentiment alone.

Kings Kaleidoscope has had enough of it.

Continue reading

Record #441: Herbie Hancock – Mwandishi (1971)

mwandishi

In the late ’60s, jazz was undergoing a sea change.

After decades of decrying electric instruments as too urbane for jazz, a number of jazz musicians started to gravitate toward them. Miles Davis led the charge, as he usually did. In a Silent Way was met with confusion and disappointment.

But nevertheless, it changed jazz forever.

Herbie Hancock was there too, beside Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul. The three pianists, fascinated with these newfangled electric pianos and synthesizers, shaped much of Davis’ vision through his electric period.

Continue reading

Record #439: Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins (2017)

painted ruins

Any time I find myself in a conversation about how modern music is garbage, I always bring up Grizzly Bear. Veckatimest is a flawless record that deserves to be listed next to albums like Pet Sounds and Odyssey and Oracle. It was a breakthrough that netted them an invitation to tour with Radiohead.

Grizzly Bear might have been doomed to live the rest of their career in the shadow of one perfect record, but the records that have followed have been similarly glorious.

Shields saw the group exploring sparser arrangements and a more measured composition. But, the record had a hard time maintaining the bliss of the first few tracks. The last half slowed the tempo down to dangerous levels, and the record ended up being a little forgettable.

Continue reading

2017 Year End

2017 has come and gone, and it’s left us with some really great music. Here are my favorites.

Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
A masterful piece of psych-metal that’s as exploratory as it is heavy

Slowdive – Slowdive
The return nobody thought to ask for that ended up being my favorite Slowdive album.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-up
The most intricately composed work they’ve ever given. Abstract and wonderful.

Cool Hand Luke – Cora
My favorite band from high school is back with bigger beats and sleeker basslines, but all of the hard hitting songwriting is in tact.

Salt Creek – Where Strangers Go
Indie rock that walks the line between shoegaze, post rock, and post-hardcore. I’ve been waiting on this EP for a while

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
Their always brilliant psych pop is back. They have yet to disappoint.

Jeremy Enigk – Ghosts
Is this his most focused solo release? Maybe. It also gets closer to SDRE than he’s gotten in years.

Pallbearer – Heartless
Their doomy palette is broader here, with faster tempos and more aggressive riffs.

Naal – A703
A piece of ambient post rock that is as heartbreaking as it is subdued.

Boy Rex – Better Vision
Nostalgia set to pure exuberance. The best summertime record of the year.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Exactly the same Americana+Krautrock=Profit format he’s used in the past, but his songwriting is more focused than ever.

All is Well – I Swear Someday
Intricate math rock that aims for the heart too.

Planning for Burial – Beneath the House
Slow, plodding, and heavy doomgaze that doesn’t have to muddy it up with distortion and screaming all the time.

Self-Proclaimed Narcissist – I Am the End Boss
Is the saddest folk punk record ever? Maybe.

Glassjaw – Material Control
The comeback of the year, with their most aggressive and relentless album of their career.

King Woman – Created in the Image of Suffering
Melodic doomgaze that is as hypnotic as it is heavy.

Room & Board – There’s No One Else That You’ll Ever Be (And If You Can Hang With That You’ll Do Fine)
Dancy indie rock twitching with 60s nostalgia.

Brand New – Science Fiction
Scandal aside, this record is an alt rock masterpiece. The work of a band who knows that a return to form doesn’t mean a retread of their earlier stuff.

Gorillaz – Humanz
Their most political and apocalyptic release ever, in a global climate that needs some more dancing. Grace Jones is on this, you guys.

SPACESHIPS – Son of Man
Ain’t too proud to put my own record on my year end list. It IS the most important record to me that came out this year.

Record #437: Deftones – White Pony (2000)

It seems fitting that in 2017, a year that saw me obsessively dive into the Deftones’ catalogue to determine if I like them or not (spoiler: I really, really, really, really do), it’s fitting that my last purchase of the year would be White Ponythe record most people regard as their magnum opus.
Listening to the melodic, shoegaze-influenced alternative metal of Koi No Yokan or Gore, there’s very little to suggest that Deftones was ever a rap-metal group. That trajectory is thanks to White Pony, the record that eschewed the nu-metal of their peers and becoming one of the best alt-metal bands in the business.

This change was in large part due to the group’s new emphasis on atmosphere and melody. Songs like “Digital Bath,” “Knife Prty,” and the eternal “Change (In the House of Flies)” made great use out of a quite-loud dynamic that became the blueprint for many of the group’s best songs. “Rx Queen,” “Teenager,” and the first half of “Pink Maggit” saw them using a quieter palette than ever before. “Teenager” even had electronic drums and acoustic guitars!

While there are no raps on this record, the band hadn’t completely shed their nu-metal skin. Some of the riffs are still drenched in hip-hop swagger—”Elite” in particular. But even these songs haven’t aged as poorly as most of their contemporaries. While songs like “Freak on a Leash” and “Nookie” sound like embarrassing time capsules, most of  White Pony sounds practically modern.

Which is good news, because I can’t stand rap rock anymore.