Archive for category Album Reviews

Girl Talk releases new album, manages to ‘break Internet’

All Day (Album cover courtesy of Girl Talk)

Fresh on the heels of announcements for his 2011 world tour, Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) unexpectedly released his newest album, “All Day,” online November 15. Unfortunately, for those eager to grab a copy for themselves numerous problems arose when attempting to download the free release. In fact, demand for the album was so great that excited fans temporarily overwhelmed the server at Gillis’ record label Illegal Art.

According to MTV News Gillis said,

“Since I woke up, it’s been insane, just endless messages and so-and-so person wants to talk to you today. And then, people haven’t been able to download it, because the site has been down, which I’m sorry for, so, yeah, it’s been a crazy-ass day.”

Still, for those lucky enough to grab a copy of “All Day,” reviews have been consistently positive.

Philip Cosores at Consequence of Sound says:

“As far as advanced reviews or hype, “All Day” doesn’t need it. You know whether you’ll like this album before you even listen to it.”

Elsewhere, a trio of “mashed-up” interns at Paste Magazine claim:

“At his best, Gillis’ combinations are better than even the sum of their classic parts. Even the strictest punk-rock purists have to smile hearing the Ramones up against Missy Elliott or Iggy Pop duking it out with The Beastie Boys.”

While building off the formula first introduced to the world on 2006’s “Night Ripper,” Gillis’ newest mix is an instant party album that is as engaging as it is fun. Though some may be put off by “All Day’s” steep 71 minute running time, listeners who hang on for the ride will find surprises around every corner. Whether it is Ludacris rapping over Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” or the inclusion of ‘90s faves the Toadies, part of the secret joy in experiencing the album is naming the samples as they fly by in furious fashion.

Yet, for all the potential his latest work holds perhaps the greatest area of impact for Gillis could be on the Billboard charts. Not in sales of course, Girl Talk is still too much of a fringe act for that, but what of the possible effect on popular artists and musicians?

Listen to an extract of “All Day” track “Let it Out” here:

Can one even imagine a world where top 40 songsters clamor to have their material chopped up into an alternate form for hungry music fans in search of a new morsel or treat? Imagine no more. That time is rapidly approaching, whether record companies and labels like it or not. And, I for one eagerly await the results.

To download “All Day” online for free visit http://illegal-art.net/allday.

For more information on Girl Talk and future tour dates please visit www.facebook.com/girltalkmusic, www.pitchperfectpr.com/a_gt.html, www.myspace.com/girltalk, www.twitter.com/therealgirltalk, or www.windishagency.com/artists/girl_talk.

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Emily’s Toybox and “Pill”: Side effects may vary

Pill (Album cover courtesy of Emily’s Toybox)

Although it is typically the practice of music writers to cover the newest releases, there are times when older material resonates more powerfully. Simply put, nothing beats a classic. And, for every individual there are those significant touchstone records that accurately define a moment in time or the passing of a particular event.

For example, maybe you had your first kiss while slow dancing to Journey’s “Faithfully.” Or, maybe you drowned your sorrows while wailing along to the tune of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” No doubt there has been a soundtrack to accompany most of your life’s memorable moments.

For me, my late teens and early-twenties will forever be associated with the band Emily’s Toybox. Although popularly labeled as a “cover act” or self-crowned as “the band that fucks your mother,” this Pennsylvania-based group’s unique spin on a variety of classic songs, as well as their delightfully inappropriate original numbers and stage act, provided a catharsis of sorts for my group of friends and I as we embarked on our first tentative steps towards adulthood.

Relationships were formed by attending live performances. Other fans were recruited to our side by a fierce process of indoctrination, more often than not involving copious amounts of alcohol, and long harangues about how one just had to “see them in person man.” New experiences were had and shared. But above all else was fun. We became disciples ingrained with the gospel of the party, and nothing else mattered as long as a good time was had by all.

By the time the group released their record “Pill” in late 2005, our loyalty was without question. When confronted by the group’s decision to part ways with their longtime bassist Leon Karpovich, we readily accepted the newcomer, Matt Kyle, the moment he burst into a comical rendition of Styx’s “Come Sail Away” sung entirely in the voice of Cartman from South Park. Still, there was also the small matter of the music itself.

Pained by their pigeonholing as a cover band, Toybox often used their self-released material to try new things or craft crowd-pleasing anthems that usually ventured on the more risqué side of poor taste. Tracks like “Fuck You,” “Phuck Filly,” and “Beat the Fuck Out of My Friends” sound vulgar, but manage to walk the fine line of being sing-able, while also simultaneously offending any sensitive person within earshot.

Photo courtesy of Emily’s Toybox

Similar to their past work, the rhythms Toybox employs on “Pill” vary from punkish to near-hardcore and even venture into R&B and mock-pop. Catchy guitar riffs drive the momentum of each number, while the bass and drums remain in tight lock-step throughout. Elsewhere, searing leads by wild-man/ guitarist Todd Sensenich occasionally grab the spotlight, but always remain musically in line with the rest of the piece.

Standing out above all else are the vocals of front man Mike Wise. He screams, he croons, he raps. He even breaks out a near-embarrassing falsetto on “Fuck You Too” that oddly plays to the song’s strengths. It’s a manic performance that is never less than engaging, and all the more surprising given the grim tone of the album’s lyrics.

The subject matter of “Pill” appears harsher than the rest of Toybox’s catalog because the anger behind the words is almost palpable. Whether writing sympathetically of a soldier friend as a “Casualty” or portraying the government as a “Meat Machine” that eats up individuals in the name of progress, Wise and company drop their class clown personas momentarily to tackle issues straight out of the headlines.

Unfortunately, what was once rousing now makes portions of the record sound dated. Even though the album is a scant five years old, its references to the conflicts going on in Iraq and Afghanistan are inextricably pinned to the moments they were written. As a historical document, such instances are acceptable practice. However, for current work the sentiments expressed may too often fall on deaf ears and numb brains. Yet, through it all the charm of such a record (and group) is not lost on me.

See Emily’s Toybox perform fan favorite “Your Girlfriend is Pretty Ugly” here:

I count Emily’s Toybox still amongst my personal favorites, and their impact on my life remains immeasurable. Though as music writers we may seldom stoop to recognize such acts, since they aren’t “hip enough” or on the “cutting edge,”  they are continually worthy of our attention. If only as remembrances of times gone by or memories long since faded to legend, bands like Emily’s Toybox are the building blocks in one’s musical education. Oh yeah, and they sort of rock too.

For more information on Emily’s Toybox and future tour dates please visit www.emilystoybx.com. Or, check the group out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Emilys-ToyBox.

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Don’t call it a come back: Ecstatic Peace releases reinvent grunge for a new era

Jesus Stole My Girlfriend single (Art courtesy of Violent Soho)

For music fans growing up in the early ‘90s, a casual spin of the radio dial often ended in one of two outcomes. While many listeners tuned in to hear the last gasp of hair-metal (Winger anyone?) or the latest hit by Michael Jackson (what, too soon?), lucky audiences were treated to an abundance of long hair and flannel from the Pacific Northwest.

This influx of Seattle-based music, more commonly known as grunge, was a watershed moment for alternative radio, responsible not only for introducing the world to an electrifying crop of new bands (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc.), but also for managing to wipe America’s collective palate clean after a decade’s worth of auditory abuses (Stryper, Whitesnake, anything by Europe, etc). Now today, with modern music once again seemingly mired in artistic ineptitude, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore seeks to repeat the revolution.

Armed with a pair of releases on his Easthampton-based label Ecstatic Peace Records, Moore hopes to give fans, “the real deal,” whether it’s in the workingman’s rock of Boston’s own Black Helicopter, or the high-powered punk snarl of Australia’s Violent Soho. Though the bands themselves may differ – in sound, origin, and even age – each remains, “their own thing, deep and distinctive.” So, without further ado, let’s get to the music.

Photo courtesy of Black Helicopter

Since first hitting the clubs in 1999, Black Helicopter has released three full-length albums through Ecstatic Peace. The latest, “Don’t Fuck with the Apocalypse,” (with cover work by underground artist Raymond Pettibon) is a grinding slab of down-tuned delight that somehow manages to straddle the line between indie-faves Pavement and sludge-originators the Melvins. Lyrically, lead singer Tim Shea slips seamlessly from tales of nostalgia (“Golden Days”) to historic treatises (“Invasion of Prussia”), and even dons his best Stephen Malkmus impersonation for the jaunty “Record Player.”

While the group’s speed leans more toward a plod instead of a flat-out run, there is no denying the member’s chops. Riff after riff cuts sharply through the air, and the throb of “Boston’s most Albanian rhythm section, Zack Lazar and Matt Nicholas,” pushes each track continuously forward. Such a steady diet of meat and potatoes rock may not be for everyone, but those who risk a second bite will find plenty to fill them up.

See the band perform “Pickle Jar” here:

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the Australian youth of Violent Soho take the fight to a variety of demons on their self-titled debut. There’s no issue of speed here. Almost every song sprints headlong into a rousing chorus with the assistance of a bevy of power chords and pummeling drums. Lead single, “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” is a fierce, fist-pumping sing-along that comically chronicles the occurrence of losing a loved one to the forces of religion. Elsewhere, the bouncy bass intro of “Here Be Dragons” gives way to Cobain-esque screams before culminating in a call for a full-on teenage riot.

See the video for “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” here:

Indeed, rebellion is a common theme on the album. Repeated mentions of a separate generation and failing systems pop up frequently. Nowhere is this angst more clearly vocalized than in the straightforward line of “fuck you fuck you, / I can’t trust you,” on the track “Muscle Junkie.” Still, even though it is not the most politically correct record you’ll hear this year, there is no better music to scream along to while stuck in traffic. Trust me, give these lads some time and you’ll likely see your source for the anthem of a new age.

For more information on Black Helicopter and Violent Soho, as well as future tour dates, please visit www.myspace.com/blackhelicopter and www.myspace.com/violentsoho. For updates on other Ecstatic Peace artists and releases please visit www.ecstaticpeace.com, or follow the label on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ecstatic-Peace/103991356302633.

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Interpol cut ties with bassist; release new album

Photo courtesy of Pieter van Hattem

New York City’s favorite gloom-rockers are back…well…most of them.

Indie-veterans Interpol (see photo) are set to return to stages across the country this fall as they tour behind the release of their self-titled fourth album, and first record without founding bassist Carlos Dengler (pictured, third from left).

As first announced on the band’s website earlier this year, Dengler left the group amicably after expressing his desire to “pursue a different path.” Drummer Sam Fogarino explained the split to the Toronto Eye Weekly’s Rob Duffy:

“Carlos really doesn’t like playing the bass guitar. How integral is the bass to Interpol music? I mean, it’s huge. It’s a total harmonic component. It’s hook-laden. But he really, really didn’t like the bass. It’s not his instrument of choice, and it definitely wasn’t his first instrument.”

While Dengler was present for the recording of the new album, he will not tour behind the effort. Instead, he will be replaced by current Secret Machines member Brandon Curtis (keyboards and vocals), and former Slint guitarist Dave Pajo (bass).

Fogarino continued:

“To go through such a change, but to gain these two incredible musicians to help you out onstage, that really softens the blow. It not only brings a level of comfort, it’s a challenge now. Because those guys are fucking good. I think we’ve gained a few steps. We’re a better live band.”

Of course, departing member aside, the focus is still on the music. And Interpol are back to what they do best on their latest release. What this means is an assortment of melancholy post-punk stylings featuring the throb of Dengler’s aforementioned bass, and guitar sounds that resemble distant chimes instead of true riff originators.

See the video for “Lights” here:

Lead single, “Barricade” builds off a propulsive opening drum beat before sprinting to full gallop over singer Paul Banks’ urgent braying. Elsewhere, closing track “The Undoing” creates an almost gothic feel with its classical organ sounds that slowly fade under a hissing snare and strident horns.

Lyrically, there are no happy platitudes here. Banks and company are at their strongest when they’re brooding not bragging. But for a band that has seen its fair share of hardships, words come secondary to its true mission. They’re still here damn it, and for the time being that’s more than enough.

For more information on Interpol and future tour dates please visit www.interpolnyc.com.

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Breathe Owl Breathe to cast spell over Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton

Photo Courtesy of Breathe Owl Breathe

Crawling forth from the wilds of rural Michigan, the members of Breathe Owl Breathe (see photo) conjure enchanting yet rough-hewn melodies on their debut release, “Magic Central.” According to the band, the album is named for the log cabin where the trio lives and records and is meant as a representation of “a place where there is no distinction between working, creating, songwriting, practicing, and playing.”

Paste Magazine’s Ashley Meltzer has heralded the group’s “wild rumpus of rhythm and harmony,” and included them in her column on the Best of What’s Next:

“While some peers have reveled in reinvigorating the old, weird side of Americana, the band’s flare for pop-addled melodies flips the contemporary folk aesthetic, eschewing freakiness in favor of charm. It’s a dynamic built on coupling clever arrangements with lyrical whimsy.”

Indeed, whimsical is where the band is at their best. The song “Dragon” opens with a rambling summary of a fairy-tale concerning a princess and her dragon pen pal. And closing track, “Lions Jaw” features the sound of actual children, who seemingly “roar” their approval of the music that follows them.

While such antics possess a certain shambolic charm, most listeners will find little here that merits repeat listening. Perhaps it’s to the band’s credit that they craft such an inviting world of their own. However, though few people choose to live their lives in a cabin in the woods, the occasional visit can sometimes be enough.

Watch the video for “Own Stunts”

Breathe Owl Breathe release their full-length debut, “Magic Central” September 28 on Home-Tapes (www.home-tapes.com). And perform September 25 at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. with Mark Olson, 7 p.m., $15-18, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com. For more information and tour dates please visit www.breatheowlbreathe.com.

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Tobacco cooks up mystery meat

Tobacco (Photo courtesy of The Seven Fields of Aphelion)

Like a rave gone wrong or an acid trip that just won’t end, the latest release by Pittsburgh-based musician Tobacco (see photo) is a true mind bender. Labeled “Maniac Meat,” the record boasts guest spots from Beck on two tracks and features schizophrenic-sounding synths as well as heavily-modulated vocals throughout.

Due to his other role as the creative ringleader behind psychadelic-freaks Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco (aka Tom Fec) is no stranger to such unusual soundscapes. However, what’s different about his sophmore record is the noticeable change in tone.

The emphasis here is on a dirtier, more rough-edged sound than that found on his debut, and most songs oblige in spades. For example, the opening cut “Constellation Dirtbike Head,” (yes, that’s the real title), is seemingly awash in distorted static. While voices float in and out of the mix, the effect is more likely to spawn a headache than a spontaneous dance off.

Still, one has to admire the sheer breadth of Fec’s vision. With 16 tracks and a running time of nearly 45 minutes, most listeners won’t be able to stomach everything here in one sitting. But when the beats land like they do on “Heavy Makeup” or “Fresh Hex,” many fans will find the energy to clear their plates for a second helping.

Tobacco’s second album, “Maniac Meat” was released  May 25 on Anticon Records. He also performed at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. on September 16. You can listen to “Fresh Hex (feat. Beck)” here: \”Fresh Hex (feat. Beck)\” by Tobacco.

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